Thursday, September 3, 2015

Nearly 90 Percent of Americans Say They View Mental, Physical Health Equally

About 90% of U.S. adults report that mental health and physical health are equally important, yet more than 30% believe that mental health care is inaccessible and 40% believe it’s something that most people cannot afford, according to a recent national online survey.

The survey, conducted between August 10 and August 12, asked U.S. adults aged 18 and older about their perceptions of mental health, including whether they had ever been diagnosed with or thought they had a mental disorder and the barriers they viewed to treatment. The survey also asked participants about their experiences with and attitudes toward suicide. A total of 2,020 adults completed the survey, and the results were weighted for age within gender, region, race/ethnicity, income, and education where necessary to align them with their actual proportions in the population.

While one-third of adults reported having been diagnosed with a mental health condition by a health care provider, 47% said they may have had a mental health condition at some point, and more than 10% of those surveyed reported missing work days because they were too anxious (14%) or too depressed (16%) to go to work.

Participants’ perceived barriers to seeing a mental health professional included the following: 43% viewed it as “something most people can’t afford,” 31% viewed it as “not accessible for most people,” 30% viewed it as “something people do not know where to find.” However, the majority of the 38% of adults who reported having ever received treatment for a mental health condition said that the treatment was helpful, whether the treatment was in-person psychotherapy (82%), prescription medication (75%), or another form of treatment.

The survey also found that 55% of all Americans have been affected by suicide in some way. The majority of participants believe that better access to psychotherapy or medication (63%), better training for health care providers (62%), more research into how to help people and why people die by suicide (60%), and educating the public about suicide prevention (59%) would help reduce the number of people who die by suicide.

“Progress is being made in how Americans view mental health and the important role it plays in our everyday lives,” said psychiatrist Christine Moutier, M.D., chief medical officer of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. “People see the connection between mental health and overall well-being, our ability to function at work and at home, and how we view the world around us.”

For related information on Americans' attitudes toward mental health care, see the Psychiatric Services report "Attitudes About Required Coverage of Mental Health Care in a U.S. National Sample."



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