NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Few Seek Treatment For Mental Disorders

December 13, 1999

According to a new surgeon general's report, one in five Americans experiences a mental disorder in any given year, and half of all Americans have such disorders at some time in their lives. Most, however, never seek treatment. The report will be issued today by the U.S. surgeon general, Dr. David Satcher. Included in the findings:

  • Most people with mental disorders don't realize effective treatments exist.
  • Many fear discrimination because of the stigma attached to mental illness.
  • Many people can't afford treatment if they wanted it because they lack insurance that would cover it.

Mental disorders are defined in the report as health conditions marked by alterations in thinking, mood or behavior that cause distress or impair a person's ability to function. They include Alzheimer's disease, depression, attention-deficit disorder, hyperactivity disorder and phobias.

According to the report, 22 percent of the population has a diagnosable disorder, and mental illness, including suicide, is the second-leading cause of disability after heart disease. However, the report said nearly two-thirds of those with mental disorders don't seek treatment.

Source: Robert Pear, "Few Seek To Treat Mental Disorders, A U.S. Study Says," New York Times, December 13, 1999.


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