All of us at anxietycentre.com have experienced debilitating anxiety. But we’ve also overcome it and returned to normal and lasting health. Because we know the hardship anxiety unwellness can cause, we are committed to helping others, with over 27 years of service.” - Jim Folk, President, anxietycentre.com

Why Is Mental Illness On The Rise?

mental illness on the rise

We are often asked, “Since life is so much easier today, why are mental illnesses, such as anxiety disorder and depression, on the rise?”

It’s true that our life is much easier today than it was 50 years ago. Yet, mental illness is on the rise, and drastically.

A study by researchers from NYU Langone Medical Center, published earlier this year in the journal Psychiatric Services, found more Americans than ever before suffer from serious psychological distress (SPD). [1] The researchers analyzed a federal health information database and concluded that 3.4 percent of the U.S. population (more than 8.3 million) adult Americans suffer from SPD.

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which conducts the National Health Interview Survey on which the research is based, SPD combines feelings of sadness, worthlessness, and restlessness that are hazardous enough to impair people's physical well-being. Previous survey estimates had put the number of Americans suffering from SPD at 3 percent or less.

Another study by the National Survey On Drug Use And Mental Health found nearly 20 percent of the adult population suffer from some type of mental illness.[2] This is up from 18.1 percent just a few years ago.

A 2010 study done by the National Institute Of Mental Health found that for the first time, youth are disproportionately affected by mental disorders.[3] The study found that one in five youth are affected by at least one type of mental disorder. According to the NCS-A researchers, the percentage of youth suffering from mental disorders is even higher than the most frequent major physical conditions in adolescence, including asthma or diabetes.

Another study, called the National College Health Assessment, by the Canadian Association of College and University Student Services (CACUSS) found more students are reporting being in distress than four years ago. The study found that one fifth of all Canadian post secondary students are depressed and anxious, or battling other mental health issues. It also found that 8 percent fewer students felt their health was very good or excellent. The study also found that the number of students who seriously considered suicide was 13 percent, up 3.5 percent from 2013.[4]

Speaking of suicide, it doesn’t get any better.

A study presented at the Pediatric Academic Societies meeting this past May (2017) found that the number of children and teens admitted to children's hospitals for thoughts of suicide or self-harm have more than doubled during the last decade.[5]

Unfortunately, there are numerous studies all reporting the same trends: a dramatic rise in mental illness and suicide. This is particularly true for children and teens.

So, why the dramatic rise? What has changed?

There are many reasons for these alarming trends, such as:

And unfortunately, many more.

While life is easier in terms of survival and work, societal norms have changed making it more difficult on our health, both psychologically and emotionally. Based on the research, this change is affecting everyone, and especially today’s children, which doesn’t bode well for our future.

The shortage of mental health resources to help those who are suffering with mental illness is another alarming trend that research has identified. On the one hand, we have a rising trend in mental illness and suicide. On the other, there are fewer resources to help address these rising trends.

What is the solution to these rising trends?

Unfortunately, there aren’t easy solutions. What is required is a wholesale rethink about the many contributing factors and then adopting healthy change. But based on how society got here, and where it’s currently headed, it’s unlikely we’ll see a positive change anytime soon. The expectation is that things will get much worse.

So, the best we can do is seek mental health support from the available resources, and then work at making families healthy one person at a time.


References:

1. Nyulmc. “Study Paints Somber Picture of US Mental Health Status and Access to Care.” EurekAlert!, 17 Apr. 2017, www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2017-04/nlmc-sp041117.php

2. ann.lynsen. “Mental and Substance Use Disorders.” Ann.lynsen, 20 Sept. 2017, www.samhsa.gov/disorders

3. “National Survey Confirms That Youth Are Disproportionately Affected by Mental Disorders.” National Institute of Mental Health, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 27 Sept. 2010, www.nimh.nih.gov/news/science-news/2010/national-survey-confirms-that-youth-are-disproportionately-affected-by-mental-disorders.shtml

4. American College Health Association. American College Health Association-National College Health Assessment II: Canadian Reference Group Executive Summary Spring 2016. Hanover, MD: American College Health Association; 2016

5. “Children's Hospitals Admissions for Suicidal Thoughts, Actions Double during Past Decade.” AAP News, 4 Oct. 2017, www.aappublications.org/news/2017/05/04/PASSuicide050417

The combination of good self-help information and working with an experienced anxiety disorder coach, counselor, or therapist is the most effective way to address anxiety disorder and its many symptoms. Until the core causes of anxiety are addressed - the underlying factors that motivate apprehensive behavior - a struggle with anxiety disorder can return again and again. Identifying and successfully addressing anxiety's underlying factors is the best way to overcome problematic anxiety.


For more information about our Anxiety Counseling option; our Available Anxiety Therapists; to Book An Appointment with one of our anxiety therapists; common Anxiety Signs and Symptoms; common Anxiety Attack Symptoms; the symptoms of panic attack disorder; anxiety Recovery Support area; information about Anxiety; and our Anxiety 101 section; or click on the appropriate link or graphic below:

Anxiety Counselling Book An Appointment Book An Appointment Anxiety Symptoms Anxiety Attack Symptoms Panic Attack Symptoms Anxiety Recovery Support Anxiety Anxiety 101

Return to our Anxiety Frequent Questions page.

Authors: Jim Folk, Marilyn Folk, BScN. Last updated October 25, 2017.

anxietycentre.com: Information, support, and coaching/counseling/therapy for problematic anxiety and its sensations and symptoms, including why is mental illness on the rise.