Mental illness rates in U.S. persistently high


New data from the U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration show that 20 percent of Americans—more than 45 million—experienced a mental illness in the past year. The data are from a survey taken in 2011, showing no changes in the persistence of mental illness in the U.S.

The National Survey on Drug Use and Health is the primary source of statistical information for drug and alcohol abuse in the country and takes place face-to-face in people's homes, much like the Census. A part of the survey covers mental health issues that may or may not be related to substance abuse.

Women and young adults affected most

Women reported more mental illnesses than men, and the highest rates of psychological problems were in people aged 18 to 25, rather than retirement-age persons as has been the norm in the past. The survey covered 65,750 people and found that 30 percent of young adults reported a mental illness, compared to 14 percent of those aged 50 and older.

Suicidal thoughts, plans and attempts

The survey found that about 4 percent of people surveyed have had serious thoughts about suicide with 25 percent of those people saying they had made plans to commit suicide and half of those attempted.

Mental illness and substance abuse

As expected and oft-reported, drug and alcohol abuse often goes hand-in-hand with mental illness, usually with the person suffering the illness attempting to self-medicate through substance abuse. Those with a mental illness are about twice as likely to become substance dependent as others.

The good news

Of the people who reported suffering from a serious mental illness last year, 60 percent of them sought treatment. That's a marked uptick from surveys in the past and continues a forward trend of increased mental health awareness and options for treatment.

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