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U.S. Leads World in Mental Illness Sufferers

The U.S. now has more people suffering from mental illness than any other country.

One-quarter of all Americans met the criteria for having a mental illness within the past year, and fully a quarter of those had a "serious" disorder that significantly disrupted their ability to function day to day, according to the largest and most detailed survey of the nation's mental health, published yesterday.

While mental illness rates have not increased in recent years, the numbers remain quite troubling:

Less than half of those in need get treated. Those who seek treatment typically do so after a decade or more of delays, during which time they are likely to develop additional problems. And the treatment they receive is usually inadequate.

Younger sufferers are especially overlooked, the survey found, even though mental illness is very much a disease of youth. Half of those who will ever be diagnosed with a mental disorder show signs of the disease by age 14, and three-quarters by age 24. But few get help.

We've written several times about the mentally ill languishing in our prisons, but that doesn't seem to raise people's ire. Hopefully, this report will. We need better treatment options in this country and we need to ensure that treatment is available to all.

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  • Re: U.S. Leads World in Mental Illness Sufferers (none / 0) (#1)
    by Johnny on Sat Dec 17, 2005 at 12:58:20 PM EST
    Before the wrong wingers jump all over this and start accusing people of being lazy, and trying to duck responsibility, let me just say that a good measure of how well a society runs is the health of it's members. Mental and physical. Look around this country...

    Re: U.S. Leads World in Mental Illness Sufferers (none / 0) (#2)
    by Talkleft Visitor on Sat Dec 17, 2005 at 12:58:28 PM EST
    It is not clear why Americans have such high rates of mental illness, but cultural factors clearly play a role.
    There's good reason to believe that it may be diet related as well. Turns out fish really is brain food. The omega-3 fatty acids in fish (not the ones in flax seed oil) appear to be necessary for proper brain function. It's helping me, and yes, there are clinical studies.
    We need better treatment options in this country
    Treatment doesn't work all that well without diagnosis. The current methods for diagnosing are in real need of improvement. For example, two people can be diagnosed as bipolar but need distinctly different treatments.
    we need to ensure that treatment is available to all
    What are you, some kind of socialist? People who get sick and can't get treatment deserve to suffer. If they didn't deserve their suffering the god Free Market would make sure they had the means to get treatment.

    Re: U.S. Leads World in Mental Illness Sufferers (none / 0) (#3)
    by scarshapedstar on Sat Dec 17, 2005 at 12:59:47 PM EST
    I can believe it. Heck, even the President doesn't even know who Ken Lay is even though he's been sending George handwritten christmas cards for years, not to mention millions of dollars.

    Re: U.S. Leads World in Mental Illness Sufferers (none / 0) (#4)
    by Talkleft Visitor on Sat Dec 17, 2005 at 12:59:47 PM EST
    Sorry for the quick second post, but this actually relates to law and mental illness. From Can Better Diet Prevent Anti-Social Behavior:
    A few months ago, C. Bernard Gesch of Oxford University and coworkers reported in the British Journal of Psychiatry that vitamin-mineral-essential fatty acid supplements appeared capable of dampening violence in a prison population (Psychiatric News, October 2, 2002).


    Re: U.S. Leads World in Mental Illness Sufferers (none / 0) (#5)
    by Talkleft Visitor on Sat Dec 17, 2005 at 12:59:47 PM EST
    I never was a great fan of Rollo May, but in one of his early books, The Meaning of Anxiety (1950), he "challenged the popular notion that "mental health is living without anxiety." In this brilliant work, May argues that, living in a world in which there is the possibility of mass destruction with the atom bomb, living without anxiety would, in fact, be pathological--and, more generally, he shows that anxiety is an essential part of being a human being, without which we would be overcome with boredom, become insensitive, and live without the necessary tension we require to preserve human existence." His fans sometimes postulated that you had to be crazy not to experience mental illness in the maelstrom of American mainstream culture. I guess if generalized anxiety should be tied to the fear of atomic annihilation, then maybe we Americans might also feel some sort of guilt/dread for our increasingly totalitarian approach to the rest of the world. Too bad Thomas Merton died young. Somehow, I see Merton as part of the solution to the societal problem that May liked to describe. Everybody remember to take their meds today, ok?

    Re: U.S. Leads World in Mental Illness Sufferers (none / 0) (#6)
    by desertswine on Sat Dec 17, 2005 at 12:59:47 PM EST
    In other words, you would have to be crazy not to be crazy. Hey, I got that, including every other disease I see on tv.

    Re: U.S. Leads World in Mental Illness Sufferers (none / 0) (#7)
    by kdog on Sat Dec 17, 2005 at 12:59:48 PM EST
    Right on dwine, anybody who doesn't experience anxiety or depression on occasion isn't normal. There are extreme cases that require therapy and/or meds, but I feel the mental health industry is over-prescibing and over-diagnosing to rack up the billable hours and sales figures for mental health drugs. Being down in the dumps for a couple days or weeks happens to the best of us, and is 100% normal. No need to go running to the headshrinker. PS...I find a little reefer does wonders for anxiety and/or stress. Take two tokes and the sun shines a little brighter:)

    Re: U.S. Leads World in Mental Illness Sufferers (none / 0) (#8)
    by Talkleft Visitor on Sat Dec 17, 2005 at 12:59:48 PM EST
    And no weed in "Freedom Nation" for the in-pain and bi-polars...tsk-tsk-tsk...

    Re: U.S. Leads World in Mental Illness Sufferers (none / 0) (#9)
    by Mreddieb on Sat Dec 17, 2005 at 12:59:48 PM EST
    Kdog Your Government has just decided for you that now Three or four Martinis will be your cure for anxiety!

    how about the view that we are the most overtherapied/oprahized society in the world. everything can be crammed within some nook or cranny of the DSM(IV or V-it keeps growing). I really seriously doubt our stress today is worse than prior generations. today, though, it's labeled mental illness.

    The latest issue of Discovery magazine has a long article on mental health and nutrients. Unfortunately, the web site is open to subscribers only, but it's available at newstands. Worth looking at.

    Between this and a similar article on the Huffington Post there is so much ignorance about mental illness. For instance:
    Being down in the dumps for a couple days or weeks happens to the best of us, and is 100% normal.
    No responsible doctor would diagnose this as a mental illness nor would any such doctor prescribe medication for this as it doesn't meet the criteria for any mental illness, including depression. It is, by mental health standards, quite normal.

    " really seriously doubt our stress today is worse than prior generations. today, though," Disagree. Since Bush stole the election, and with the added tsuris of 9/11, I'm certain certain stress levels are higher than they've ever been. The Cuban Missile Crisis lasted only 13 days, after all, and US involvement in World War II lasted four years, but we are now in year five of Bush with no end in sight. No wonder people are unraveling.

    I can believe that we are some seriously messed up folks here in the U.S. of A. and when you live in a place like Oklahoma, which BTW is ,I believe, near the number one spot as having the most citizens with a mental illness, you realize that studies like the one cited may actually be fudging the results to put a more positive spin on things. Did I mention that Oklahoma voted for George Jesus in the last election with 66% percent of the vote and that we are in at least the top 5 of states with the largest number of mental illnesses? CONNECT THE DOTS!

    Re: U.S. Leads World in Mental Illness Sufferers (none / 0) (#15)
    by roy on Sat Dec 17, 2005 at 12:59:48 PM EST
    Cheap shot, Tristero. The article says "the prevalence of U.S. mental illness has remained roughly flat in the past decade". Even TL's writeup says "while mental illness rates have not increased in recent years..."

    Bush stress versus the Great Depression/WWII/the Cold War/having a smart mouthed teenager. I'll go with Bush every time.

    Yup, Reagan sure did us one mighty favor when he closed down the mental hospitals to make more funds available for Star Wars.....WHICH NEVER FRICKEN WORKED FOR CHRISSAKES!! Reagan joke: Whats the difference between Ketchup and Ronald Reagan? Nothing. They're both vegetables now. hehe.

    And China is one of our biggest trading partners. So what's your point Narius? You're mad at China? Tell it to your friend Bush.

    Re: U.S. Leads World in Mental Illness Sufferers (none / 0) (#20)
    by Che's Lounge on Sat Dec 17, 2005 at 12:59:50 PM EST
    When neocons tell me I'm crazy then I know I'm OK. Kdog, Yeah sometimes I wonder how f***ed up I'd be if I didn't have MJ to put things in a better perspective and ease my mind.

    Re: U.S. Leads World in Mental Illness Sufferers (none / 0) (#21)
    by kdog on Sat Dec 17, 2005 at 12:59:51 PM EST
    Right on Che. As John Lennon once said..."Whatever gets you through the night..."

    Re: U.S. Leads World in Mental Illness Sufferers (none / 0) (#22)
    by Che's Lounge on Sat Dec 17, 2005 at 12:59:51 PM EST
    We could use a peacemaker like him about now.