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The State of the US Mental Illness Epidemic

The degree of mental illness in the United States remains a serious issue of concern, as a significant number of US adults experience some sort of mental health issue each and every year. Mental illness is a broad term, however it can be very telling as to the state of our society as a whole.

In late November, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration or SAMHSA came out with its annual report on US adults who had suffered from some sort of mental illness in the past year. While the rate of mental health issues was flat from 2010 to 2011, it is astonishing to see that the rate of mental illness remains at 20% of the US adult population. Some key stats to ponder:

  • Mental illness in those between 18 and 25 was 29.8%
  • Mental illness in those over 50 was 14.3%
  • Women were more likely than men, 23% vs. 15.9%, to experience mental illness
  • 5% of US adults had serious mental illness than resulted in grave functional impairment, limiting one or more major activities in life.

Tellingly, less than 40% of those with mental illness and less than 60% of those with serious mental illnesses received appropriate treatment in the past year.

As this relates to addiction and substance abuse, those with mental illness were three times more likely to meet the criteria of substance abuse and those who had serious mental illness were even more likely to abuse substances at 22.6%.