Is mental health as important as physical healthcare?
The majority of Americans seems to think that Juvenal’s principle of mens sana in corpore sano (a healthy mind in a healthy body) applies… in theory (and in theory, communism also works. In theory). But in practice, Americans also think that mental healthcare is not as accessible as physical healthcare, especially in terms of cost – and as a result fail to seek the former, even when they do believe they have a mental condition. That is what the Mental Health and Suicide Survey conducted by Harris for the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention and the National Action Alliance for Suicide Prevention found – just in time for National Suicide Prevention Week (Monday 7th-Saturday 12th September, 2015). Mental illnesses, including depression, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and anxiety disorder are all risk factors for suicidal ideation and attempts.
The survey was conducted online between August 10th and 12th, 2015, and involved 2,020 American adults aged 18 and older. Some of the findings included the following:
- 89% of respondents said that physical and mental health are equally important.
- 56% said that physical health is treated as more important than mental health.
- 43% said seeing a mental health professional is something most people cannot afford.
- 33% reported being diagnosed with a mental disorder.
- 47% claimed they thought they had a mental disorder.
- 28% said they have received treatment for a mental disorder.
- 48% described suicide as a way to escape pain.
- 86% believe that mental health issues increase the risk that a person will commit suicide.
- 55% know someone who has talked about, has attempted, or has died by suicide.
- Only 4% strongly agreed that you can tell when someone is suicidal.
And on the plus side:
- 38% of respondents said that seeing a mental health provider is a sign of strength, as opposed to only 4% who saw it as a sign of weakness.
- 75% said prescription medications were a very/somewhat helpful treatment for a mental health condition.
- 82% said in-person psychotherapy was very/somewhat helpful.
- 79% said online psychotherapy was very/somewhat helpful.
- 79% said coaching was very/somewhat helpful.
- 78% said peer support was very/somewhat helpful.
- 90% said complementary or alternative treatments such as acupuncture, meditation, or yoga were very/somewhat helpful.
- 14% reported being too anxious to go to work as opposed to 86% who didn’t miss any days.
- 16% reported being too depressed to go to work as opposed to 84% who didn’t miss any days.
- 81% strongly/somewhat disagreed that there is nothing anyone can do if someone wants to commit suicide.
- 92% strongly/somewhat agreed that health services that address mental health are fundamental to overall health and should be part of any basic health care plan.
- 47% strongly/somewhat agreed they can tell when someone has depression or anxiety.
- 74% strongly/somewhat agreed that most people who commit suicide show signs before the fact.
- 98% think that suicide can be prevented.
- 63% said that better access to therapy and/or medications would help reduce suicide rates.
- 93% said they would do something if someone close to them was thinking about suicide, as opposed to only 1% who said they would leave them alone/do nothing.
- 55% said nothing would prevent them from trying to help someone close to them who was thinking about suicide.
- 67% said they would tell someone if they were having suicidal thoughts.
Among the reasons that could increase someone’s risk of suicide, people cited hopelessness (75%), bullying (71%), fiduciary problems (69%), relationship issues (62%), losing a job (56%), divorce (51%), depression (79%), PTSD (61%), bipolar disorder (48%), anxiety (41%), panic (32%), generalized anxiety disorder (27%), social anxiety disorder (36%), eating disorder (29%), OCD (22%), other mental condition (42%), drugs (65%), alcohol (58%), and chronic pain (57%). As for the reasons that prevent suicidal people from seeking help, respondents mentioned feeling like nothing can help (74%), not knowing how to get help (68%), embarrassment (65%), lack of hope (64%), inability to afford treatment (62%), lack of access to treatment (53%), social stigma (52%), lack of social support (52%), fear of disappointing others (52%), and fear of losing a job (30%).