More Americans than ever before are experiencing mental health problems, yet access to treatment for those issues is becoming more difficult to receive, a new study has found.
A new analysis of data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Health Interview Survey shows that serious psychological distress, or SPD, defined as severe sadness and depressive symptoms that interfere with a person’s physical wellbeing, is on the rise just as resources for mental health treatment are declining.
Researchers from NYU’s Langone Medical Center analyzed almost a decade’s worth of data and found that more than 8.3 million Americans ― or an estimated 3.4 percent of the adult population ― suffers from a serious mental health issue. The latest data is a departure from previous reports on the CDC’s survey, which estimated that fewer than 3 percent of American adults experienced serious psychological distress, according to the study’s authors.
The statistics were pulled from surveys collected between 2006 and 2014. The report included more than 200,000 Americans between the ages of 18 and 64. Individuals were represented from all states and across all ethnic and socioeconomic groups, according to the study authors.
One of the more dismal discoveries from the report is that access to professional help for mental health issues is deteriorating. The study found the 9.5 percent of people surveyed in 2014 did not have health insurance that provided access to a psychiatrist or counselor, a rise from 9 percent in 2006.
Approximately 10.5 percent of people experienced delays in getting treatment due to insufficient mental health coverage ― a 1 percent increase from 2006. And almost 10 percent of individuals in 2014 could not afford to pay for necessary psychiatric medications, which went up from 8.7 percent in 2006.
The findings indicate there’s a growing problem when it comes to mental health services. This could especially affect smaller communities. A 2016 report published by Mental Health America found there’s a glaring shortage of mental health professionals in the United States, specifically in rural areas. Alabama, for example, has one worker per every 1,200 people. Nevada, another rural state, was ranked last in MHA’s report, largely in part because of the state’s lack of available mental health professionals.
What this means
There’s a clear need for more emphasis on mental health in primary care facilities and hospitals across the country, according to Judith Weissman, lead study investigator of the CDC data and a research manager in the Department of Medicine at NYU Langone Medical Center.
“Among people with any type of illness, people with SPD are the ones experiencing the most disparities in terms of utilizing health care,” Weissman told The Huffington Post. “It leaves people with SPD just spinning through the system and makes you wonder what’s going on. Why isn’t the health care system addressing people with mental illness?”