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The State of Mental Health in the United States

by | Last updated Mar 31, 2021 at 1:38PM | Published on Nov 10, 2020 | Health and Wellness, Mental Health

State of Mental Health in the United States

Today, over 51 million people are struggling with their mental health in the United States. That accounts for a 1.5 million increase over last year’s report. With the pandemic taking a toll on most of us, the US’s state of mental health is more fragile and worrying than ever. Levels of anxiety and depression are through the roofs since the pandemic started. We are also seeing an alarming rate of children reporting thoughts of suicide and self-harm. The state of mental health in the United States reports a trend that continues to worsen. Here’s what we know so far.

Understanding Mental Illnesses

Mental illnesses are prevalent in the US, with nearly one in five adults living with a mental illness. These illnesses have different degrees of severity, often ranging from mild to moderate and severe.

Any Mental Illness (AMI)

Any mental illnesses are any mental, behavioral, or emotional disorder. This term basically encompasses all recognized mental illnesses. They can vary in impact, going from no impairment to mild, moderate, or severe impairment. Nearly 19 percent of US adults experience a form of mental illness.

Serious Mental Illness (SMI)

On the other hand, a serious mental illness is a mental, behavioral, or emotional disorder that results in serious functional impairment. SMIs substantially interfere with someone’s major life activities. Nearly 4 percent or one in every 24 adults has a serious mental illness.

the state of mental health in America Infographic

Prevalence of Mental Illness Among Adults

The latest reports in 2019 estimate that 51.5 million adults (18 or older) in the US struggled with a mental illness. However, the prevalence of AMIs was higher among women than men. And of all, young adults (ages 18-25) had the highest prevalence of any mental illness.

Unfortunately, these numbers continue to worsen; from 2012 to 2017, suicidal ideation among adults went from 3.77 percent to 4.19 percent. Today, the percentage of adults reporting serious thoughts of suicide is 4.34 percent. The estimated number of adults with serious suicidal thoughts is over 10.7 million—an increase of over 460,000 people from last year’s data set. States with the highest increases in suicidal ideation were Delaware (0.90%), Maine (0.82%), and Mississippi (0.81%). Utah has had the highest rate of suicidal ideation among adults every year since 2012-2013.

Unfortunately, similar trends are seen with those struggling with serious mental illnesses. In 2019, a national survey of mental health says about 13.1 million adults or 5.2% of all US adults were struggling with SMI. Not surprisingly, the number was also higher among women than men, and young adults (ages 18-25) had the highest prevalence of SMI.

Sadly, while the numbers of drug abuse among those with mental illness have decreased, they’re still considerable. This year, about 7.67 percent of adults in the United States reported having a substance use disorder in the past year or so. Of those, 2.87 reported having an illicit drug use disorder in the past year, plus another 5.74 percent reported having an alcohol use disorder. The states with the lowest rates of substance use disorders are those in the southeast, except Louisiana. The most massive increases in the prevalence of adults with substance use disorders were in Colorado.

Mental Health in the United States: Access to Care by the Numbers

Unfortunately, like with substance use disorders, those with mental illness rarely get treatment for their condition. In 2019, only 44 percent of those with AMI received mental health services in the past year. Not surprisingly, women received more mental health services than men. However, in this scenario, the percentage of those seeking mental illness treatment was lower among young adults.

On the other hand, those with a debilitating mental health disorder are more likely to seek treatment. Overall, 65% of those with SMI received mental health treatment in the past year. Women being the ones looking for treatment the most. Although the percentage of young adults seeking treatment was lower than adults with SMI, most likely because often young adults try to self-medicate with drugs or alcohol.

The Impact of COVID-19 in 2020 Numbers

This year, most reports will show unprecedented numbers when it comes to the state of mental health in the United States. With the coronavirus pandemic, millions of people developed struggles with mental illnesses like anxiety, depression. Many others saw their previous conditions like attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) exacerbated with the pandemic. Not to mention, countless individuals struggling with SMI couldn’t get access to their mental health treatment due to lockdowns and restrictions.

From January to September 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic affected people tremendously:

  • The number of people looking for help with anxiety and depression increased by 93% and 62% since last year.
  • By the end of September 2020, the rate of moderate to severe anxiety symptoms peaked, with over 8 in 10 people getting higher scores in anxiety or depression screens than ever before.
  • At the beginning of the year, over 178,000 people reported frequent suicidal ideation. By the end of September, nearly 37 percent of people reported having thoughts of suicide more than half or almost every day.
  • Young people, ages 11 to 17, have been the most affected by the pandemic about their mental health state, with most scoring moderate to severe anxiety and depression symptoms.
  • Rates of suicidal ideation are the highest among youth, especially LGBTQ+ youth.
  • Although rates of anxiety, depression, and suicidal ideation are increasing for people of all races and ethnicities, Black or African Americans have the highest average percent for anxiety and depression. For Native Americans or American Indians, their numbers were higher for suicidal ideation.

When to Seek Help

Over 9 million people in the United States live with a co-occurring disease, yet only 7.5 percent of people enroll in treatment programs. Data shows a significantly high rate of substance use disorders and anxiety disorders, including generalized anxiety disorder, panic disorder, and post-traumatic stress disorder. Substance use disorders also co-occur at high prevalence with mental illnesses, such as depression and bipolar disorder, ADHD, borderline personality disorder, and antisocial personality disorder.

To receive an official dual diagnosis, you must be evaluated by a mental health professional or an addiction specialist. However, you don’t have to be a professional to recognize some of the signs and symptoms someone struggles with co-occurring disorders.

Signs of Addiction

  • Struggling to keep up with school or work
  • Lying or stealing to continue an addictive behavior
  • Attempting to quit drugs or alcohol but relapsing repeatedly
  • Expressing feelings of regret or shame about compulsive behavior
  • Experiencing withdrawal symptoms when trying to quit a harmful substance
  • Changing friends or family members for different activities or new crowds

Symptoms of Mental Illness

  • Experiencing delusions or hallucinations
  • Expressing feelings of despair, hopelessness, and worthlessness for two weeks or more
  • Feeling compelled to follow elaborate rituals and maintain high standards to relieve anxiety
  • Struggling to hold a job or friendships due to behavioral issues or drastic mood swings
  • Using drugs, alcohol, or other compulsive behaviors to manage or cope with stress
  • Withdrawing from others, refusing support from friends and family members

Finding Help Near Me

Lighthouse Recovery Institute is touted as one of Florida’s best dual diagnosis treatment centers for its unique approach to treatment. From the first assessment, our team of addiction specialists and psychotherapists draft a comprehensive plan that adapts to your needs, and it’s built to be readjusted whenever needed as you make progress throughout the treatment.

If you or someone you know is struggling with a dual diagnosis, we encourage you to call us today to learn more about our treatment programs and how you can start walking toward recovery.

Geraldine Orentas

Geraldine Orentas

Geraldine is Lighthouse Recovery Institute’s Digital Marketing Manager. She has a Bachelor’s in Journalism and experience in the digital media industry. Geraldine’s writing allows her to share valuable information about mental health, wellness, and drug addiction facts, hoping to shed light on the importance of therapy and ending the stigma.
Medical Disclaimer:

Lighthouse Recovery Institute aims to improve the quality of life for anyone struggling with substance use or mental health disorder. We provide fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options, and their outcomes. The material we publish is researched, cited, edited, and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide in our posts is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. It should never be used in place of the advice of your physician or another qualified healthcare provider.

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