Mental health has grown to be an outsized problem in the United States, with 90% of Americans saying it is now a crisis, according to a new national poll from CNN and the Kaiser Family Foundation.
For the poll, researchers from CNN and KFF surveyed a nationally representative sample of 2,004 U.S. adults between July 28 and Aug. 9, 2022. Interviews were conducted in both English and Spanish.
Overall, 90% of Americans said they believe there is a mental health crisis in the United States today. In addition, around half of respondents said there was a severe mental health crisis in their own families, including "in-person treatment for family members who were a threat to themselves or others, or family members who engaged in self-harming behaviors," according to CNN.
Regarding six different mental health concerns, respondents were most likely to say the opioid epidemic was a crisis (69%), followed by mental health issues in children and teenagers (55%), and severe mental illness in adults (51%). Notably, few respondents considered any of these issues not a problem at all.
Even with all these mental health issues, a little over half of respondents said they believed that adults and children/teenagers in the United States are not able to get the care they need. However, when asked about whether "people like [them]" are able to access care, 66% of respondents said they would be able to get the mental health care they need.
The biggest barrier to mental health care was cost, with 80% of respondents saying that it was a big problem. Similarly, 74% of respondents said health insurance companies not covering mental health care like they do physical care was a big problem.
A lack of mental health care providers, stigma or shame associated with mental health problems, and a lack of diversity among mental health care workers were other problems that most respondents associated with accessing mental health care.
When it came to their own mental health and emotional well-being, 22% of respondents rated it as being fair or poor. Groups that were more likely to say that their mental health was only fair or poor include adults under the age of 30, those who identified as LGBT, and those whose annual income was less than $40,000.
Over 50% of respondents said their personal finances, current and political events, personal relationships, and work were either a minor or major source of stress, which could have affected their mental health.
However, 35% of respondents said they were not too comfortable or not comfortable at all with talking to either their friends or relatives about their mental health—even though 98% said individuals and families should play a role in addressing mental health problems.
Some common reasons for not feeling comfortable include being a private person, the stigma around mental health issues, a lack of understanding or compassion, and a fear of being judged.
In the past 12 months, 21% of respondents said they received mental health services from a health care professional, and 28% said any of their children received mental health care. Of those who received care, 40% did so by phone or online only, 29% did so in-person, and the remainder had a mix of in-person or virtual care.
However, there were also respondents who said they needed mental health services or medication in the last 12 months and did not receive. Around 27% of respondents said they could not get care for themselves, and 15% said they could not get care for their children.
According to the respondents, the most common reasons they were unable to get mental health were the cost being unaffordable, being afraid or embarrassed to seek care, or being too busy to get care.
According to Nora Volkow, director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse, "[t]he Covid-19 pandemic exacerbated numerous social stressors that we know can increase the risk of both substance use and mental illness."
However, even with this growing prevalence of mental health issues, people are also more willing to seek treatment now than before. For example, data from CDC found that almost 22% of adults got mental health care in 2021, up from 19% in 2019.
"Perhaps one of the only benefits of the pandemic and the shift that our country has been going through is the increase in our willingness to acknowledge and talk about when we might be struggling or in need of support," said Sarah Brummett, director of the National Action Alliance for Suicide Prevention’s executive committee. "People are more willing to roll up their sleeves and talk about it and support folks. And I think that's progress."
Health experts say there is an opportunity to broaden how people view mental health and change the way people respond to mental health crises in general.
"Not everyone's a cardiologist, but a lot of people are trained in CPR," said Justin Baker, a psychologist and assistant professor at the Ohio State University College of Medicine. "If we only rely on the mental health force, we're going to keep going around in circles and never actually get anywhere. I think we see this as all of our problems."
"This can be a preventable public health issue, and we all have a role to play," Brummett said. (Hou, "Changing America," The Hill, 10/5; McPhillips, CNN, 10/5; KFF/CNN Mental Health Survey, 10/5)
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