Public Health Implications of Mental Health

In a survey conducted by KFF in July 2020, nearly half of U.S. adults reported experiencing symptoms of anxiety or depression. Nearly 47 million people reported suffering from a mental illness in the past year. The epidemic also caused an increase in substance use among American adults, with 41% reporting symptoms of anxiety or depression. Additionally, over 11 million Americans had serious thoughts of suicide in the past year. These figures are alarming – and suicide rates are already on the rise. In fact, the opioid crisis is already contributing to these statistics by producing overdose deaths that are four times higher than the previous year.

Disparate representation in the field of mental health has many negative consequences for the quality of care for marginalized populations. Research has shown that only 2 percent of American Psychological Association members are Black. Lack of diversity within these organizations can limit the understanding of patients, and make it difficult to address patient identities. The result is a higher risk of depression and other mental health disorders among minority groups. But it does not end there. The disparity between minority and white populations is significant, with disproportionately high rates of anxiety, depression, substance abuse, and suicidal thoughts among Black and Hispanic adults.

The cost of treating mental illness is enormous. It accounts for 35 to 50 percent of the costs in developed countries, and is a major cause of public health concern worldwide. Sadly, many people are stigmatized for being afflicted with a mental illness. But the good news is that the stigma surrounding mental illness does not necessarily have to be social. You don’t have to be rich to get the help you need.

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