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Facts About Mental Illness

  • Mental illnesses are health conditions characterized by alterations in thinking, mood, or behavior (or some combination) associated with distress and/or impaired functioning. i

  • Of American adults, 5.4 percent have a serious mental illness (SMI). ii*

  • Twenty-three percent of American adults (ages 18 and older) suffer from a diagnosable mental disorder in a given year, but only half report impairment of their daily functioning due to the mental disorder. Six percent of adults have addictive disorders alone, and three percent have both mental and addictive disorders. iii

  • Almost half of the adults with serious and persistent mental illnesses are between the ages of 25 and 44. iv

  • Approximately nine percent to 13 percent of children ages nine to 17 have a serious emotional disturbance with substantial functional impairment, and five percent to nine percent have a serious emotional disturbance with extreme functional impairment due to a mental illness. v

  • Not all mental disorders identified in childhood and adolescence persist into adulthood, even though the prevalence of mental disorders is almost the same percentage. A substantial number of children and adolescents recover from mental illness. vi

  • Four of the ten leading causes of disability in the United States and other developed countries are mental disorders, which include major depression, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, and obsessive-compulsive disorder. vii

  • The treatment success rate for a first episode of schizophrenia is 60 percent, 65 percent to 70 percent for major depression, and 80 percent for bipolar disorder. viii*

  • Of the 1,012,582 total hospital admissions in the U.S. in 1998, 261,903 (25.8 percent) were psychiatric admissions. ix

  • The total cost of mental health services in the U.S. was $148 billion in 1990. The direct cost of mental health services (treatment and rehabilitation costs) totaled $69 billion, and the indirect costs (lost productivity at work, school, or home due to disability or death) were estimated at $78.6 billion. x

  • Serious mental illnesses (SMI) interfere with employment. An estimated 57 percent of adults with SMI were not employed in 1990 compared to 29 percent of the general population. xi*

  • Approximately one-third of the estimated 600,000 homeless people in the United States have a severe mental illness. However, only one in 20 persons with a severe mental illness are homeless. xii

  • Only five percent to seven percent of homeless persons with a mental illness need to be institutionalized; most can live in the community with appropriate, supportive housing. xiii

  • In 1998, 283,800 people with mental illnesses were incarcerated in American prisons and jails. This is four times the number of people in state mental hospitals throughout the country. xiv

  • Sixteen percent (179,200) of state prison inmates, seven percent (7,900) of federal inmates, 16 percent (96,700) of people in local jails, and 16 percent (547,800) of probationers have reported a mental illness. xv

  • Mentally ill offenders are more likely than other offenders to have a history of substance abuse/dependency and a higher rate of homelessness and unemployment prior to incarceration. xvi


References

i U. S. Department of Health and Human Services. 1999. Mental Health: A Report of the Surgeon General. Rockville, M.D.: U. S. Department of Health and Human Services, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, Center for Mental Health Services, National Institutes of Health, National Institute of Mental Health.

ii Kessler, R. C., et al. 1998. "A Methodology for Estimating the 12-Month Prevalence of Serious Mental Illness." In Mental Health, United States, 1999, edited by R.W. Manderscheid and M.J. Henderson, 99-109. Rockville, M.D.: Center for Mental Health Services.

*Note - An individual is said to have a severe mental illness (SMI) when he or she meets the criteria for a DSM disorder during a 12-month period (excluding substance use disorders and developmental disorders) causing functional impairment. Functional impairment is defined as substantial interference with one or more major life activities including basic daily living skills (e.g., eating and bathing), instrumental living skills (e.g., maintaining a household and managing money), and functioning in social, family, and vocational/educational contexts.

iii Regier D.A., et al. 1993. The De Facto Mental and Addictive Disorders Service System. "Epidemiologic Catchment Area Prospective One Year Prevalence Rates of Disorders and Services." Archives of General Psychiatry, 50 (2): 85-94.

iv Manderscheid, R.W. and M.A. Sonnerschein. 1992. Mental Health in the United States. Rockville, M.D.: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

v Friedman, R. M., et al. 1996. "Prevalence of Serious Emotional Disturbance in Children and Adolescents." In Mental Health, United States, 1996, edited by, R.W. Manderscheid and M.A. Sonnenschein, 71-88. Rockville, M.D.: Center for Mental Health Services.

vi U. S. Department of Health and Human Services. 1999. Mental Health: A Report of the Surgeon General. Rockville, M.D.: U. S. Department of Health and Human Services, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, Center for Mental Health Services, National Institutes of Health, National Institute of Mental Health.

vii Murray, C.J.L., and A.D. Lopez, eds. 1996. Summary: The Global Burden of Disease: A Comprehensive Assessment of Mortality and Disability from Diseases, Injuries, and Risk Factors in 1990 and Projected to 2020. Cambridge, M.A.: Harvard School of Public Health on Behalf of the World Health Organization and the World Bank, Harvard University Press. www.who.int/msa/mnh/ems/dalys/intro.htm

viii National Mental Health Advisory Council. 1993. "Health Care Reform for Americans with Severe Mental Illnesses." American Journal of Psychiatry 150 (10): 1450-1452.

*Note - Treatment success is defined as a substantial reduction or remission in symptoms of the illness.

ix Center for Mental Health Services. 1998. Survey of Mental Health Organizations and General Mental Health Services. Rockville, M.D.: Center for Mental Health Services.

x Rice, D.P., and L.S. Miller. 1996. "The Economic Burden of Schizophrenia: Conceptual and Methodological Issues, and Cost Estimates." In Handbook of Mental Health Economics and Health Policy: Schizophrenia. Vol. 1, edited by M. Moscarelli, A. Rupp, and N. Sartorious, 321-324. New York: John Wiley and Sons.

xi Willis, A. G., et al. 1998. "Mental Illness and Disability in the U.S. Adult Household Population." In Mental Health, United States, 1998, edited by R. W. Manderscheid and M.J. Henderson, 113-123. Rockville, M.D.: Center for Mental Health Services.

*Note - An individual is said to have a severe mental illness (SMI) when he or she meets the criteria for a DSM disorder during a 12-month period (excluding substance use disorders and developmental disorders) causing functional impairment. Functional impairment is defined as substantial interference with one or more major life activities including basic daily living skills (e.g., eating and bathing), instrumental living skills (e.g., maintaining a household and managing money), and functioning in social, family, and vocational/educational contexts.

xii Federal Task Force on Homelessness and Severe Mental Illness. 1992. Outcasts On Main Street: A Report of the Federal Task Force on Homelessness and Severe Mental Illness. Washington, D.C.: GPO.

xiii Federal Task Force on Homelessness and Severe Mental Illness. 1992. Outcasts On Main Street: A Report of the Federal Task Force on Homelessness and Severe Mental Illness. Washington, D.C.: GPO.

xiv U.S. Department of Justice. 1999. Bureau of Justice Statistics. Special Report: Mental Health and Treatment of Inmates and Probationers. Ditton, PJ. Washington, D.C.: NCJ.

xv U.S. Department of Justice. 1999. Bureau of Justice Statistics. Special Report: Mental Health and Treatment of Inmates and Probationers. Ditton, PJ. Washington, D.C.: NCJ.

xvi U.S. Department of Justice. 1999. Bureau of Justice Statistics. Special Report: Mental Health and Treatment of Inmates and Probationers. Ditton, PJ. Washington, D.C.: NCJ.