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Mental Health Center

Report: 1 in 5 Adults Had Mental Illness in 2010

Rates of Illness Significantly Higher Than Rates of Treatment
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Suicide, Major Depression, and Substance Abuse

The number of adults who contemplated or attempted suicide was also tallied. According to the report, 8.7 million Americans seriously considered suicide, and 2.5 million of them made plans to kill themselves. About 1 million adults attempted it.

While many of the 2010 suicide-related survey results are similar to those of 2009, SAMHSA reports that the number of college-age adults considering suicide is on the rise. Full-time college students themselves, however, are less likely than others in their age group to contemplate, plan, or attempt suicide.

Also on the rise are episodes of major depression. In 2005, 14.2 million adults 18 and over had at least one episode of major depression. Last year, that number was 15.5 million.

The youngest adults -- those under the age of 26 -- were the most likely to have major depression; they were also the least likely to be treated for it. Less than half of young adults received treatment compared to more than 75% of adults over 50 and nearly 70% of those ages 26 to 49.

Here, SAMHSA also looked at rates among young people ages 12 to 17. They found that 8% -- nearly 2 million -- of that age group had had a major depressive episode in the previous 12 months. About two-thirds of them were severely impaired by their illness. Girls were nearly three times more likely than boys to have had such an episode, severe or otherwise. The majority of boys and girls did not receive treatment for depression.

Substance Abuse Rampant

Finally, the survey looked at the relationship between substance abuse and mental illness. The researchers found that adults who had a diagnosable mental disorder were about twice as likely to abuse illicit drugs, such as cocaine, hallucinogens, inhalants, and heroin. Binge drinking, alcohol abuse, and smoking were also significantly higher among adults who had a mental illness. The risk for all such behavior increased with the severity of the disease.

The authors of the report conclude that their findings underscore the “relatively high prevalence of mental illness in the past year ... and the substantial unmet need for mental health care in the past year,” as well as the strong association between mental disorders and drug and alcohol abuse.

“People, families, and communities will benefit from increased access to mental health services,” SAMHSA Administrator Pamela S. Hyde says in a news release. “Mental illnesses can be managed successfully, and people do recover.”

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