• Mental Illnesses Linked to Higher Substance Dependence and Abuse

    Mental illness experienced by adults aged 18 and above is defined as having a diagnosable emotional, mental, or behavioral disorder. According to a national report, 45.9 million (around 20%) Americans in this age group was diagnosed with mental illness in the past year. Among this number, 30% were aged 18 to 25 years while 14.3% were 50 years and older. At the same time, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) reported that 11.4 million adults (5% of the adult population) were diagnosed with serious mental illness. Serious mental illness results in functional impairment which seriously affects life activities.

    Mental illness is a public health problem. The World Health Organization reported that mental illness is becoming a disability in developed countries. In the U.S. alone, the reported economic impact of mental illness reached $300 billion, in 2002. It is also normally associated with other illnesses like diabetes, obesity, cancer, and heart disease. This is why the SAMHSA believes in the importance of providing strategic prevention and recovery programs for mental illnesses.

    When people are suffering from mental illnesses, they become dangerous to themselves and to others. In the same report, about 8.7 million adults contemplated suicide in the past year. Almost one-third of this population planned suicide while 1.1 million attempted suicide. Reports also found that those who are suffering from mental illnesses become dependent on prohibited substances. They found higher rates of substance abuse among adults who were suffering from mental illness compared to those who did not experience any mental illness in the past year.

    The same report found that there are 1.9 million youth aged 12 to 17 who experienced depressive episodes in the past year. 37.2% of them were found to use prohibited drugs in the past year. This is twice the rate of those who used illicit drugs without experiencing any depressive episode in the same age group.

    With the reported statistics on mental illness and how it affects those who are suffering from it, the SAMHSA is reaching out to communities to spread awareness on how to prevent and treat such illnesses. They are dedicated to developing programs and provide facilities to treat illnesses. With effective programs and strategies to fight mental illnesses, we can also lower the risk of developing other diseases like heart diseases, cancer, and substance abuse.

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