Mental illness is a increasingly widespread in the U.S., affecting around one in five American adults every year, according to survey from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration
Of the 45.6 million adults who had diagnosable mental illness in 2011, 11.5 million had serious mental illness. Other surveys put those numbers even higher.
Mental illness has been on the rise over the past few decades. Between 1987 and 2007, the number of people with mental disorders that qualify for Supplemental Security Income or Social Security Disability Insurance increased about two and a half times, according to the New York Review of Books.
Primarily this epidemic is related to improvements in recognising and diagnosing mental illnesses, though some claim we’ve gone too far in prescribing drugs for treatment.
The most common metal illnesses are depressive disorders and anxiety disorders. As the chart below indicates, depression affects people aged 40 to 59 almost twice as much as any other age group.
Despite its prevalence, mental illness still has a stigma in America.
Only 57% of Americans adults believed that people are caring and sympathetic to persons with mental illness, according to a 2007 survey from the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention. Worse, only 25% of adults with mental health symptoms believed that people are caring and sympathetic to persons with mental illness.
Mental distress (a proxy for mental illness) is most prevalent in the South, where many states rank high for depression and low for overall well-being, as well as Appalachia, according to this map from the CDC:
This could be linked to poverty and people who aren’t able to afford treatment. Data shows that people who report experiencing serious psychological distress are more likely to live in poverty.
Of those who indicated in a 2007 CDC survey that they had serious psychological distress, only 38% had received treatment in the past year.
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