Mental Illness: A Rising Toll

By Steve Barrett
Monday, January 30, 2017
Specialty: 

Millions of Americans are affected by mental illness. However, a worsening shortage of mental health services could block access to promising new therapies for many.

Left Untreated ...

Mental illness is financially devastating for individuals, families and society. Americans lose more than $193 billion in income annually due to serious mental illness. Among adults ages 18–44 and youths, mood disorders are the third most common reason for hospitalizations.

Premature Death

Typically, Americans die 25 years sooner if they have a serious mental illness.

Rates of Mental Illness in the U.S.

21.4% of youths 13–18 experience a severe mental disorder.

18.5% of adults experience mental illness in a given year.

18.1% of adults experience an anxiety disorder.

6.9% of adults had one or more major depressive episodes in the past 12 months.

Provider Shortage

The dearth of mental healthcare services is visible on multiple fronts.

  • As a proportion of their populations, 45 states had fewer psychiatrists in 2014 than in 2009.
  • The United States needs 123,300 psychiatric hospital beds in addition to the existing 37,700.
  • A 2014 survey of 38 state mental health directors found half of those states were held in contempt or were threatened with contempt citations for slow placement of mentally incompetent inmates in mental health facilities.
  • Seven in 10 emergency rooms have boarded psychiatric patients for at least 24 hours. Those stays have stretched to at least a week for 10% of emergency rooms.

Telemedicine to the Rescue?

Behavioral health-related telemedicine services are reimbursed by 48 state Medicaid programs, and some organizations are leveraging telemedicine to treat patients who might otherwise go without care.

The 10,000 subscribers to Teladoc Behavioral Health’s direct-to-consumer behavioral healthcare program engage in “more than 1 million asynchronous texting sessions per quarter,” according to Forbes.

Globally Debilitating

Issues such as drug use, depression and anxiety are the main cause of disability worldwide. Among people 20 to 29 years of age, they account for the equivalent of more than 40 million years of disability.


Sources: National Alliance on Mental Illness, The Lancet, Mental Health Foundation, Stateline, Association of American Medical Colleges, Forbes