Mental illness is not going to go away; in fact there is an increase in the number of people suffering from depression, anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder. Some 30% or more Americans—that’s almost one in three– are diagnosed with at least one mental illness in their lifetimes. 1 in 4 adults experiences a mental health illness in a given year and psychiatric drugs are among the most prescribed medications in the United States. According to IMS Health, “Nearly $40 billion was spent last year on the top three types: antipsychotics, antidepressants and medication for attention-deficit disorder.”
Hundreds of thousands of U.S. children—up to 3%—are estimated to have been diagnosed with pediatric bipolar illness since the mid-1990s, when it first came into existence as a diagnosis. There is increasing concern on the part of both parents and physicians that these children are being overmedicated with psychiatric drugs that can cause severe side effects, including weight gain that can lead to the risk of diabetes. Between 1993 and 2009 there has been a sevenfold increase in doctor visits for antipsychotic medications for bipolar disorder and other psychiatric illnesses in children 13 and under. Children as young as four years old are taking antipsychotic medications (Wall Street Journal 10/19/12).
The facts and numbers by the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) that follow may shock you. They certainly shocked me. I had no idea that mental disorders make up 13% of the global disease burden, surpassing both cardiovascular disease and cancer (National Institutes of Health):
- One in 17 adults lives with a serious mental illness
- One in 10 children lives with a serious mental or emotional disorder
- Bipolar disorder affects 2.6 % of the American adult population per year
- Major depressive disorder affects 6.7% of American adults
- Anxiety disorders affect about 18.7% of American adults and frequently co-occur with depression or addiction disorders
- One-half of all lifetime cases of mental illness begin by age 14, three-quarters by age 24
- In the US, the annual economic, indirect cost of mental illness is estimated to be $70 billion. Most of that amount reflects the loss of productivity as a result of illnesses.
- In the United States, people with severe mental illness die on average 25 years earlier than the general population.
- 24% of state prisoners and 21% of local jail prisoners have a recent history of a mental health disorder.
- 70% of youth in juvenile justice systems have at least one mental disorder.
- In July 2007, a nationwide report indicated that male US veterans are twice as likely to die by suicide as compared with their civilian peers
In a moving talk at TED Global 2012, mental health care advocate Vikram Patel outlined some startling statistics about mental disorders that show its global reach:
- More than 450 million people across the globe suffer from mental illnesses (World Health Organization)
- Mental and psychosocial disabilities are associated with rates of unemployment as high as 90%. (WHO)
Meanwhile, those with severe mental illnesses are more likely to have other health risk factors, as well. In the Untied States, while about 22% of the general population smokes, more than 75% of people with severe mental illness are tobacco-dependent. And people with depression or bipolar disorder are about twice as likely to be obese as the general population. (Time Magazine)
In the last 45 years suicide rates have increased by 60% worldwide. More than 90% of people who kill themselves have a diagnosable mental disorder. (NIH)
Suicide is among the three leading causes of death among those ages 15-44 years in some countries, and the second leading cause of death in the 10-24 years age group. (WHO)
No, mental illness is not going to go away until we raise awareness about the need for more research funds and creative ways to treat it.