What Is Mental Illness?
1. Mental illness is a highly prevalent, life-threatening disease that affects millions of people all around the world.
- Mental illness does not discriminate: it strikes people of all ethnic groups and economic brackets.1
- Over 44 million people in the U.S. – one in five adults – suffer from a mental health disorder in a given year3, and over 5 million people are disabled by severe mental illness.2
- Two new cases of mental illness occur in the U.S. every second of every day – 60 million new cases each year.3
2. Mental illness strikes the young and often goes undiagnosed and untreated for many years.
- Half of those who will ever be diagnosed with a mental disorder show signs of the disease by age 14, three-quarters by age 25.1
- Few get help: in recent years, about 80% of serious cases went untreated in poor countries, 35-40% in richer countries.1
- There are pervasive delays in getting treatment: the median across disorders is nearly a decade, contributing to a greater severity, co-occurrence of mental illnesses, and lower success rates as people age.1
3. Mental illness threatens lives everywhere.
- Mental disorders are associated with over 90% of all reported suicide cases.1
- In America, more people die from suicide than cancer, homicide1, or HIV/AIDS. In 2001, there were twice as many deaths due to suicide than from HIV/AIDS.2
- Suicide claims the lives of a significant number of people with serious mental illness:
- One in ten people suffering from schizophrenia will commit suicide.3
- One in five people suffering from bipolar disorder will commit suicide.4
4. Mental illness has a significant impact on human productivity.
- Major depression is the leading cause of disability worldwide among persons aged five or older.1
- Four of the ten leading causes of disability in developed countries are mental disorders (major depression, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia and obsessive-compulsive disorder).2
- Around the world, mental illness causes as many lost days of work as any physical problem such as cancer, heart attack or back pain.3
- Mental illness, including suicide, accounts for over 15% of the lost years of healthy life, also known as Disability Adjusted Life Years (DALYS) – more than all cancers and second only to all cardiovascular conditions.1
5. Mental illness has a staggering impact on the global economy.
- Studies from Europe1 have estimated that expenditures on mental disorders as a proportion of all health service costs are very high – 23% in The Netherlands and 22% in the U.K.2
- In 1990, costs related to mental illness in the U.S. were already significant3:
- Indirect costs for mental disorders totaled $79 billion – 80% of these costs stemmed from mortality costs.
- Major depression cost an estimated $23 billion in lost workdays.
- One study concluded that the aggregate yearly cost of mental disorders accounted for about 2.5% of the U.S. Gross Domestic Product4.
6. There are inadequate resources available for combating mental illness, despite its huge impact on human productivity and life.
- At the government level, mental diseases account for 12% of the global burden of disease, but the mental healthcare budgets of most countries are less than 1% of total healthcare expenditures.1
- At the philanthropic level:
- Around the world, the stigma associated with mental illness creates a vicious cycle of alienation and discrimination that results in social and political isolation and inadequate treatment approaches and resources within the community.
- Despite a higher death rate, mental illnesses receiver a fraction of the charitable donations made to combat cancer or HIV/AIDS.
7. There is hope for people living with mental illness.
- People can regain their mental health, but not with medication alone.
- People with mental illness are successfully participating in society through a combination of medication, community support services and relationships that ease the way from isolation to full participation in life.
- Thousands of good examples exist around the world of people with mental illness not merely integrated into their communities, but playing a socially productive and economically important role.1
- The emergence of Clubhouses and other rehabilitation services in many countries around the world demonstrates through a growing body of evidence that people with mental illness can successfully participate in society through education, employment and other social activities.1
Source: 1World Health Organization.