There is a lot of confusion around mental health issues and mental disorders, caused in part by the stigma that often goes along with a mental disorder diagnosis. The American Psychiatric Association (APA) and other groups work hard at demystifying mental health issues, and that begins by sharing information.

During any one-year period, up to 50 million Americans — more than 22 percent — suffer from a clearly diagnosable mental disorder involving a degree of incapacity that interferes with relationships, employment, attendance at school, or activities of daily life, according to the APA.

Their research also shows:

  • Up to 20 percent of the ailments for which Americans seek a doctor’s care are related to anxiety disorders, such as panic attacks, which interfere with the ability to live a normal life.
  • Some 8-14 million Americans suffer from depression each year. As many as one in five Americans will suffer at least one episode of major depression during their lifetime.
  • Approximately 12 million children under age 18 suffer from mental disorders such as autism, depression and hyperactivity.
  • Roughly 2 million Americans suffer from schizophrenic disorders, and 300,000 new cases occur each year.
  • 15.4 million American adults and 4.6 million adolescents experience serious alcohol-related issues, and another 12.5 million suffer from drug abuse or dependence.
  • Nearly one-fourth of the elderly who are labeled as senile actually suffer some form of mental illness that can be effectively treated.
  • Suicide is the third leading cause of death for people between the ages of 15 and 24.
  • Studies by the US Alcohol, Drug Abuse and Mental Health Administration indicate that men are more likely to suffer from drug and alcohol abuse and personality disorders and women are at higher risk of suffering from depression and anxiety disorders.

The Cost of Mental Health Disorders

The personal and social costs that result from untreated mental disorders are considerable, but the financial costs need to be counted too. In fact, the direct cost for support and medical treatment of mental illnesses totals $55.4 billion a year. Compare that to the direct cost of substance abuse disorders, which comes to $11.4 billion a year. Then there are the indirect costs such as lost employment, reduced productivity, criminal activity, vehicular accidents and social welfare programs, which increase the total cost of mental and substance abuse disorders to more than $273 billion a year.