A look at the prevalence of mental illness in California and the U.S. – Orange County Register

Mental illness cases have risen in California, while treatment and funding have not kept up.

Every Southern California county has experienced an upward trend in the rate at which children under 18 years are hospitalized for a mental health issue.

“The mental health system has been plagued by gaps in services, access and funding,” says Dr. Dr. Clayton with St. Joseph Hoag Health. “People with severe mental health and substance abuse conditions struggle to receive needed care in their communities due to stigma and difficulty navigating a complicated system.

“Often, patients with severe mental illness and substance use disorders end up in hospital emergency rooms because they have nowhere else to go.”

Since 1995, California’s population has increased by more than 7 million people, but the facilities and beds for acute psychiatric care have decreased.

Prevalence in the U.S.

43.8 million adults experience mental illness in a given year.

 

Mental distress by county

The map below presents estimates of the number of those who report frequent mental distress (14 to 30 mentally unhealthy days in the past 30 days). Figures are the most recent available, aggregated over 2003-2009.

Aside from substance abuse conditions – alcohol abuse is the most common of those – the top five mental health ailments are:

  • Anxiety disorders
  • Depression
  • Eating disorders
  • Autistic spectrum disorders
  • Alzheimer’s

Facts and myths

Dr. Chau on myths and facts related to mental health:

Myth: Mental health problems don’t affect me.

Fact: Mental health problems are actually very common. One in 10 young people experienced a period of major depression in 2014.  Suicide accounts for the loss of more than 41,000 American lives each year, more than double the number of lives lost to homicides.

Myth: People with mental health problems are violent and unpredictable.

Fact: Most people with mental illness are not violent and only 3 percent to 5 percent of violent acts can be attributed to individuals living with a serious mental illness. In fact, people with severe mental illnesses are over 10 times more likely to be victims of violent crime than the general population.

Myth: Personality weakness or character flaws cause mental health problems. People with mental health problems can snap out of it if they try hard enough.

Fact: Mental health problems have nothing to do with being lazy or weak and many people need help to get better. Many factors contribute to mental health…

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