On Grading The U.S. For Mental Illness

I took it upon myself to research mental health statistics in the United States this morning after thinking about which state would be nice to move to once I had the resources to do so. What I found was shocking and disappointing, but interesting at the same time. 

What did you find, exactly?

I was trying to find out whether or not a particular state had mental health resources similar to the ones in my own state. What I found instead was a grading system from the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill (NAMI) on mental health performance throughout the 50 states. I could only get data from 2009 but despite it being five years ago, I would like to use it as a reference point in where we stand on mental health as a country.

NAMI has published that 1 out of every 4 Americans (or 61.5 million, take your pick) suffers from a mental illness in a given year. Going along with this, the National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) has published that in 2008, 4.6% of Americans (or 10.4 million) suffers from a serious mental illness.

In 2009, NAMI published a “report card” on how well supported the mental health system is in each state. On average, the U.S. received a D grade (out of possible A, B, C, D, F, where F is the lowest). No one state received an A grade. Six states received a B grade, 18 received a C, 21 received a D, and 6 received an F (these states includes the D.C. area).

What does this mean then? Why should I care about statistics in 2009 when it’s 2014?

This affects people like myself because funding mental health programs is expensive. I can’t afford treatment I’m currently in out of my own pocket, and the cost of compensating for this kind of situation is probably not far from astronomical. California, the most populous state in the country, has been given a C grade from NAMI on its mental health care resources. This is the same grade as my state (New Mexico), which has one of the lowest densely populous statistics according to Wikipedia.

In short, if you need mental health care, you’re going to be screwed in over half the country because of the poor resources available.

What can I take away from this?

More mental health support is needed. NAMI is a great resource on the mental health community. More funding is needed for mental health programs. More awareness on this matter is needed. Basically, more of everything is needed to support this.

If you can, try reaching out to support the mental health community, and try to take advantage of mental health services in your area. Just enrolling in the programs will show that more support is needed. From 2006 statistics, 14 states improved their overall rankings from NAMI’s criteria.

Think of the potential outcome of something like this. Statistics are a powerful thing.

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