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Mental Illness Affects 1 in 5 Americans

Survey Shows Many Mentally Ill Americans Aren’t Getting the Medical Help They Need

Getting Help for Mental Illness

The new survey ''mirrors most of the epidemiological surveys we know about," Ken Duckworth, MD, medical director of the National Alliance on Mental Illness, tells WebMD after reviewing the findings.

The most striking finding is ''who gets help and who does not,'' says Duckworth, who is also an assistant professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School. "The prevalence of psychiatric illness is substantial, but for many reasons people don't access help for themselves in the same way they access help for other problems."

Societal stigma may be one reason, he says. "Society hasn't gotten on board to fully consider that mental health is part of health."

Despite efforts to reduce stigma and improve access, he says, issues remain. Another problem, he says, is that many people with psychiatric disorders ''can't appreciate that it's a disorder."

Delany hopes the new survey numbers may help to change attitudes. The survey suggests that ''many more of us in society have mental health problems [than may have been believed] and we really need to think differently."

Mental Illness and Families

The message from the new report for families of those with mental illness, Delany says, is simple: "You're really not alone."

"This report should help them feel that this is a much broader problem than people thought. This is information they can use to help advocate for themselves and family members."

For those trying to convince family or friends to get mental health help, Duckworth offers suggestions. "Lead with love," he says. ''Figure out areas of agreement. A person may not be willing to say he has bipolar disorder. He may agree he wants a girlfriend and to keep a job. Then problem-solve."

That approach, he says, offers a much better chance of convincing the person to seek help than simply asking the person to get care.

"Consider getting some support for yourself," Duckworth tells loved ones of those with mental illness. "Loving a person who has a psychiatric illness who can't or won't get help is very stressful for the family."

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