Mental health is essential to personal well-being, and is fundamental to leading a healthy, balanced, and productive life. Signs of mental health include successful thought processes, resulting in productive activities, fulfilling relationships, and the ability to adapt to change and cope with adversity. Mental illnesses, also known as psychiatric illnesses, alter the ill person’s thought process, upsetting life, activities, relationships, and coping and thriving abilities. Mental illness was once a terrifying diagnosis, but today many people can and do recover, and go on to live vital, thriving lives.
Today, we understand so much more about mental health and mental illness than we did even 10 years ago! With today’s treatment options, what was only a hope in the past is becoming a reality. Nearly 80% of individuals stricken with a mental illness can become well again with the proper treatment. We know how important it is for ill people to be central parts of making decisions about their own needs, to be given the very real hope that they will get better. And there continue to be great advances in research, treatment therapies, and medication for people.
Not Investing in Mental Health Is Expensive
- The total yearly cost for mental illness in both the private and public sectors in the United States is $205 billion – but only $92 billion of that total comes from direct treatment costs. The total cost of untreated and mistreated mental illness to American businesses, the government, and to families is $113 billion every year.
- Employees who are depressed are twice as likely to take time off for health reasons than employees who are not depressed, they are seven times more likely to be less productive on the job than their counterparts.
- The success rate for treating clinical depression is nearly 80 percent.
- Treating people in communities is far less expensive than treating them in institutions. In one recent study, the total treatment cost per person per year, including the cost of housing, was $60,000 compared to $130,000 for institutional care.
- Twenty percent of youths in juvenile justice facilities have a serious emotional disturbance and have a mental disorder that can be diagnosed. Up to an additional 30 percent of youths in these facilities have substance abuse disorders or co-occurring mental health and substance abuse disorders.
- On any given night, more than 600,000 people are homeless in the United States , of which one-third have a serious mental illness.
- The World Health Organization estimates that depression and substance abuse are associated with more than 90 percent of all suicide cases.
- According to the World Health Organization in its 1998 report, depression will be the second greatest cause of premature death and disability worldwide by the year 2020.
Treatment Offers a Powerful Return on Investment
- A study conducted by the American Journal of Psychiatry noted that anti-depressant treatment reduces overall healthcare costs by more than 70 percent.
- Comprehensive community-based mental health services for children and adolescents can cut public hospital admissions and lengths of stay.
- In 1996, the average cost of incarcerating an individual in a New York City jail was approximately $63,000. In contrast, the cost of providing community-based housing to an individual in New York City was only $12,000 per year or $33 a day.
Mental Health Is Under-Funded
- In 1997, mental health and substance abuse expenditures represented only 7.8% of the more than $1 trillion of all U.S. healthcare expenditures. This is a decrease from 8.8% in 1987.
- Mental illness is the second leading cause of disability in the United States, yet only 7% of all healthcare expenditures are designated for mental health disorders.
- Treatment Does Work If Used Appropriately
- While one in four adults will experience a serious mental disturbance in their thoughts, feelings, and ability to cope during their life-time, only 30% of them will actually seek and carry through with treatment.
- Many adults may struggle their entire life with depression, anxiety, or other disturbances in their mental health. Their illness will cause them problems in their family, on their job, and with the people they care about. It can rob them of income, security, and the successes that would have been theirs if they had gotten help early in their illness.
- Nearly 28% of individuals considered homeless in Guilford County in January 2005 reported some form of mental health concern.
Why Don’t People Seek the Help They Need?
- Mental illnesses have been with us for a very long time. For hundreds of years, myths and untruths about mental illnesses have created distrust and fear. Remember, people thought the world was flat in 1492. And they treated a person stricken with mental illness as though they were inhabited by demons.
- Even into the 1900s, a person who was stricken with a mental illness, was considered to be insane, incompetent, deranged, and could spend their life in a mental institution, locked away and neglected, often in dismal and horrendous conditions.
- People became frightened of talking about their concerns for their thoughts and feelings, afraid of what might happen to them if they told others. Family members were worried about what other people would think if they learned that a relative was “insane.” Taboos and stigmas, myths and prejudices were viewed as real facts. Rumors are very hard to destroy.
How Can You Help Change Things for the Better?
- Mental health associations and other national organizations made it their mission in the late 1940’s to break apart these stigmas, myths, fears, and untruths about these illnesses and about the people who were stricken by them.
- Without community understanding of mental illness and acceptance of those living with mental illness, people will continue to avoid talking about it and seeking help.
- What can you do to help? Please check out our information on Compeer, Compeer Connectons, Volunteers, and Community Education.
- You can learn more about specific illnesses such as depression, bipolar, schizophrenia, anxiety, mood disorders, and other information through the Mental Health America Website, the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill Website, and the U.S. Substance Abuse, Mental Health Services Administration.