is Mental Health important?
mental health problems and mental illness will affect between 10-15 per
cent of young people in any one year. That is around 1 in every 10
people. In adults it is around 1 in 5 who experience problems at some
stage in their life.
people will recover
without much help and most other people who are treated will fully
recover. However, a smaller number of people will experience problems
illnesses are just
like any other illness, such as heart disease, diabetes and asthma.
the past, the more
severely affected people were treated in psychiatric institutions or
hospitals, and had no say how and where they wished to live their
lives. The majority of these people were adults.
forms of help
and treatments have improved. Most people are helped in community
health centres or by trained professionals. Some people will need to go
to hospital occasionally for short periods of time.
mental disorders is made on
the basis of a multidimensional assessment that takes into account
observable signs and symptoms of illness, the course and duration of
illness, response to treatment, and degree of functional impairment.
One problem has been that there is no clearly measurable threshold for
functional impairments. Efforts are currently under way in the
epidemiology of mental disorders to create a threshold, or agreed-upon
minimum level of functional limitation, that should be required to
establish a “case” (i.e., a clinically significant condition).
Epidemiology reflecting the state of psychiatric nosology during the
past two decades has focused primarily on symptom clusters and has not
uniformly applied—or, at times, even measured—the level of
Q. Are people born with mental
causes of mental illness are unclear. Some mental illness can run
in families. Many other factors can contribute to the causes of mental
illness. For example: things like stress, grief, relationship
breakdown, child abuse, unemployment, social isolation and times of
accidents and life-threatening illness.
Q. Are people with a mental
This is not true. People with a mental illness are seldom
dangerous. Most acts of violence are carried out by people who do not
have a mental illness. When
treated appropriately and early, it
is possible for many people to
recover fully from most mental illnesses. For other people, mental
illness is like many physical illnesses which require ongoing
treatment, but which can be managed so that the individual can
participate in every day life.
Do people with a mental illness
need to be kept away from other people?
Most people with a mental illness recover quickly, and the majority
do not need hospital care. Few families in the United States are
untouched by mental illness. Determining just how many people have
mental illness is one of the many purposes of the field of
epidemiology. Epidemiology is the study of patterns of disease in the
population. Among the key terms of this discipline, encountered
throughout this report, are incidence, which refers to new cases of a
condition, which occur during a specified period of time, and
prevalence, which refers to cases (i.e., new and existing) of a
condition observed at a point in time or during a period of time.
According to current epidemiological estimates, at least one in five
people has a diagnosable mental disorder during the course of a year
(i.e., 1-year prevalence).
Q. Can anyone develop a mental
fact, mental illness is very common. The
current prevalence estimate is that about 20 percent of the U.S.
population are affected by mental disorders during a given year. Based
on data on functional impairment, it is estimated that 9 percent of all
U.S. adults experience some significant functional impairment. Most (7
percent of adults) have disorders that persist for at least 1 year. A
subpopulation of 5.4 percent of adults is considered to have a
“serious” mental illness (SMI). Serious mental illness is a term
defined by Federal regulations that generally applies to mental
disorders that interfere with some area of social functioning. About
half of those with SMI (or 2.6 percent of all adults) were identified
as being even more seriously affected, that is, by having “severe and
persistent” mental illness (SPMI). This category includes
schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, other severe forms of depression,
panic disorder, and obsessive-compulsive disorder. These disorders and
the problems faced by these special populations with SMI and SPMI are
described further in subsequent chapters. Among those most severely
disabled are the approximately 0.5 percent of the population who
receive disability benefits for mental health-related reasons from the
Social Security Administration.
Q. What do mental
health problems cost America annually?
of mental illness are
Although the question of cost is discussed more fully in Chapter 6, a
few of the central findings are presented here. The direct costs of
mental health services in the United States in 1996 totaled $69.0
billion. This figure represents 7.3 percent of total health spending.
An additional $17.7 billion was spent on Alzheimer’s disease and $12.6
billion on substance abuse treatment. Direct costs correspond to
spending for treatment and rehabilitation nationwide.
When economists calculate the costs of an illness, they also strive to
identify indirect costs. Indirect costs can be defined in different
ways, but here they refer to lost productivity at the workplace,
school, and home due to premature death
costs of mental illness were estimated in 1990 at $78.6 billion. More
than 80 percent of these costs stemmed from disability rather than
death because mortality from mental disorders is relatively low.