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It’s hard to ignore the seemingly dire reports and studies that come out every year, suggesting that the mental health of Americans is only worsening (or staying the same with no real improvement). On the same page, these statistics could mean that more people are aware of their mental health issues now than in previous years.
Results from a national report from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration only seem to follow the latest trend. The report stated that one in five U.S. adults had a mental illness in 2010.
An article from the Los Angeles Times added that the 2009 report had slightly lower numbers, but numbers overall were “fairly stable” when compared to the 2010 report.
The criteria used to define "mental illness" is based on the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders that is used by mental health professionals to diagnose patients with mental illnesses, according to the report.
Other interesting findings from the report include the finding that “the rate of mental illness was more than twice as high among those aged 18 to 25 ... than among those aged 50 and older,” and “adult women were also more likely than men to have experienced mental illness in the past year.” In addition, even though 20 percent of U.S. adults age 18 and older had a mental illness in 2010, only 5 percent had a more serious mental illness.
Mental health professionals have thoughts on the reasoning behind the prevalence of mental illness in U.S. adults.
Viola Drancoli, a therapist in Los Angeles who is also a clinical psychology doctoral candidate, said in an email that the statistics in the recent report could be impacted by multiple factors.
“The slight increase of mental illness in 2010 could be influenced by people's willingness to seek professional help when they experience symptoms,” Drancoli said. “The media sometimes contributes to a decrease in stigma concerning mental illness and psychotherapy. When more people seek help, the number of diagnoses rises in a given year.”
These are hard times as well, so it makes sense that mental health would be affected by the environment.