Millions of people in the U.S. are affected by mental illness each year. Mental illness has wide-reaching effects on people’s education, employment, physical health, and relationships. Although many effective mental health interventions are available, people often do not seek out the care they need. It’s important to understand how common mental illness is, so we can understand its physical, social and financial impact.
- 19.1% of U.S. adults experienced mental illness in 2018 (47.6 million people). This represents 1 in 5 adults.
- 4.6% of U.S. adults experienced serious mental illness in 2018 (11.4 million people). This represents 1 in 25 adults.
- 16.5% of U.S. youth aged 6-17 experienced a mental health disorder in 2016 (7.7 million people)
- 3.7% of U.S. adults experienced a co-occurring substance use disorder and mental illness in 2018 (9.2 million people)
Almost five percent of adults in Indiana have experienced the effects of a serious mental illness in 2014-2015, according to a report by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. In the same years, almost 21 percent of people in the state reported a mental illness of some type.
Those with mental illness used to be institutionalized and when those institutions started being dismantled, mental health issues became largely criminalized. It is time to stop using jails and prisons as default mental health facilities. Instead, we should divert non-violent offenders with mental illness and substance use disorders into treatment instead of incarceration. This would save lives, foster recovery and reduce costs. We should also invest in community-based treatment that keeps people with mental illness out of jail in the first place and ultimately saves taxpayer money.
Addiction Does not Discriminate
Addiction is considered a mental health issue, and many times the underlying cause of addiction is a mental health disorder such as anxiety, depression, PTSD or ADHD.
The challenge of addiction affects all of us, from the nearly 700 babies born annually with effects of addiction to the child welfare, criminal justice and healthcare systems that are strained under the burden of the addiction crisis.
There is unprecedented momentum at the state and local levels to make conquering opiate addiction, which includes heroin and prescription painkillers, a top priority. We also cannot ignore and must address the recent increase in methamphetamine use. Individuals using methamphetamine have reported this it is cheaper, safer (the risk of overdose is not as high) , and more accessible then heroin. According to Indiana’s drug intelligence officers local meth labs are no longer common as the Mexican drug cartel is providing a cheaper more potent alternative.
In order to combat substance abuse in Indiana we must first must build awareness while reducing stigma. Secondly we must increase access to harm reduction services which includes decriminalization. Decriminalization is not the same as legalization. We must set into place policy that allows people who are addicted to drugs to get help from the state without entering the penal system.
Finally, Indiana desperately needs more trained professionals equipped to treat substance abuse, including psychiatrists, psychiatric nurse practitioners and primary care providers. We must make it a priority to increase the number of such providers, as well as create easier access to medication-assisted treatment.