Are mental health problems increasing? The answer does seem to be yes, especially among adolescents and young adults. According to a study from the American Psychological Association, rates of mood disorders and events that relate to suicide have gone up significantly in the past decade within these younger age groups.
Having a mental condition does seem to be on the rise.
Even before the COVID-19 outbreak, mental disorders were becoming increasingly prevalent. That’s likely even more true now, as the pandemic has had a negative impact, leading to increases in depression, anxiety and PTSD, and feelings of isolation and loneliness.
Facts About Mental Disorders in America
- In 2019, 6% of adults in the U.S. experienced a mental illness, which is 1 in 5.
- Around 5.2% of adults in the United States experienced a severe mental illness in 2019, more than 13 million people.
- For adolescents aged 12 to 17, 16.5% reported a mental disorder in 2016.
- Only 44.8% of adults with mental illness got treatment in 2019, and only 50.6% of youth aged 6-17 got treatment for their symptoms of mental condition.
- For males, the treatment rate annually is 36.8%.
- Mental disorders make up several of the top disability causes in the U.S.
- Most people who commit suicide have a diagnosed mental condition—most commonly a substance use disorder or a depressive disorder.
- The rate of thoughts related to suicide and suicidal thoughts combined saw a forty-seven percent increase among young adults from 2008 to 2017. The actual suicide rate has also been increasing.
A national survey from the American Psychiatric Association found that more adults experienced, including essential and nonessential workers, effects from the pandemic in 2021 than they did in 2020.
- In this poll, around 41% of Americas report feeling more anxious than last year. Adults between the ages of 18 and 29 were more likely to report higher levels of anxiety and depression this year than a year ago.
- Forty-three percent of adults said the COVID-19 pandemic seriously impacted their mental wellbeing, up from only 37% in 2020.
- Among adults, 17% reported experiencing drinking more alcohol than usual and experiencing other substance use issues.
- More than half of the adults surveyed with children said they were concerned with their family member’s mental state, and nearly half said the pandemic had caused problems for one or more of their children. In general, children’s health seems to be on the decline during this period, mentally and physically, because of social isolation, the impact of parental financial strain, closed schools, and more.
- Globally, the World Health Organization (WHO) says around 20% of children and adolescents have a mental condition, and suicide is the second-leading cause of death between the ages of 15-29.
- Throughout the world, almost 75% of people with mental disorders don’t receive treatment, and nearly one million people commit suicide every year. Without treatment, mental health outcomes worsen, and we all feel the impacts.
According to Mental Health America, in “The State of Mental Health in America,” the number of people looking for help with depression and anxiety has gone up significantly during the COVID-19 pandemic. People screening with symptoms of depression that are moderate to severe went up throughout 2020. The rate remains higher than before COVID-19.
More people are reporting thoughts of mood disorders and suicide than the Mental Health Association says have ever been seen since its screening program launched in 2014. Around 70% of people screened with Mental Health America said loneliness and isolation were among the top three contributors to their concerns.
What are the Most Common Mental Health Disorders?
Some of the most common mental illnesses in the U.S., according to the Mental Health Services Administration, include:
- Anxiety disorders: These are a broad category of conditions that can include generalized anxiety disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, specific phobias, and social anxiety disorder. Around 19.1% of U.S. adults say they experienced an anxiety disorder in the past year. More than 31% of adults experience an anxiety disorder at some point in their life, and the rates of anxiety continue to increase. Symptoms of anxiety can be crippling.
- Bipolar disorder: Symptoms include dramatic mood and energy changes that significantly interfere with day-to-day functioning—around 4.4% of adults in the U.S. experience bipolar in their lifetime.
- Major depression: Depressive symptoms can lead to impairments that affect daily life. The prevalence of major depressive episodes is more common in adult females than males. Symptoms of depressive disorders include low energy and loss of interest or pleasure.
Why Are Mental Health Conditions Increasing?
There are many theories as to why problems are increasing, especially among teens and young adults. Some even consider it a mental health crisis.
- The reason that we saw in 2020 and now 2021 specifically is the pandemic. The pandemic has led to hundreds of thousands of deaths and fears about severe illness among one’s loved ones. Again, because of social distancing and efforts to slow the spread of the virus, many people are suffering emotionally.
- However, even before the pandemic, the trends showed mental problems increasing, especially for young people, and upticks in suicides.
- Some of it may be due to the use of digital media and electronic communication. Young people have less in-person social interaction and social connectedness with their peers, and they may not be able to disconnect from risk factors for mental problems, such as bullying. For example, before social media, young people could leave their problems in school, but now they often find they can’t.
- Teens and young adults may constantly compare themselves to others on social media, worsening mental wellbeing.
- The use of phones and other devices can also affect areas of health that indirectly impact mental wellness.
- Through digital media and the constant barrage of news, people are more exposed to things that may be distressing or traumatic for them.
- There may also be a level of complexity that comes with navigating behavioral health benefits and accessing mental health resources. There are ongoing changes in health insurance and policies that make it intimidating or difficult for people to get help when they need it, especially if they’re of lower economic status. When someone doesn’t get treatment for mental health issues, they can worsen like other chronic disorders.
- For millions of people who lost their jobs due to the coronavirus pandemic, along with the financial impact, that may mean they don’t have health insurance at all right now.
- Culturally, some groups of people may feel more of an impact of stigmatized attitudes about seeking help to treat a mental disorder. Cultural trends can create significant barriers to treatment for behavioral health conditions. Health communication strategies aim to change this, but it’s complicated.
Mental Health Concerns Specific to the Pandemic
Many experts worry that at least as far as the mental effects of the coronavirus outbreak, we’re only seeing the tip of the iceberg right now.
They believe that for many people, there’s still a sense of being in survival mode. Only once the immediate danger passes can we start to deal with our feelings about the trauma we experience. Crises can contribute to severe substance abuse, burnout, increased suicides, PTSD, and other issues.
These problems and concerns will likely continue to grow. While it’s disheartening to see that perhaps problems are increasing, there are benefits of using mental health services on a global level.
Receiving Mental Health Care
You can help yourself, or a loved one connect with mental health providers, which is the best way to diagnose your symptoms and create a treatment plan. The benefits of working with a health care provider include better day-to-day functionality, reduction of your symptoms, and an overall improvement in your mental and physical well-being.
Without receiving care, you are more at risk of developing a substance use disorder, worsening outcomes, and even physical complications and chronic conditions.
If you’d like to learn more about resources that might be available to you, please call (858) 258-9883 and get in contact with the team at The Mental Health Center of San Diego. We’re here to help and guide you toward the things you need to improve your quality of life now with mental health treatment.