Americans View Mental Health and Physical Health as Equally Important

As we focus attention on mental health and suicide during National Suicide Prevention Week, Sept. 7 – 13, a new national survey about mental health and suicide provides some insight on Americans’ understanding and perceptions.

According to the survey, U.S. adults recognize the importance of mental health care to overall health, but don’t feel the current health care system matches that need. The overwhelming majority of adults (89 percent) feel that mental health and physical health are equally important and feel that health services that address mental health, such as treatment for depression and suicide prevention, should be part of any basic health care plan (92 percent). However, less than one-third (28 percent) feel that mental and physical health are treated equally in our current health care system.

Survey Results

of adults feel that mental health and physical health are equally important


of adults say they know someone who has talked about/attempted/died by suicide


of adults feel suicide can be prevented always/often

For more on the survey visit American Foundation for Suicide Prevention

The online survey was conducted in August for the Anxiety and Depression Associations of America, the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention and the National Alliance for Suicide Prevention.

Suicide has touched the lives of most adults — more than half (55 percent) of adults say they know someone who has talked about/attempted/died by suicide. Nearly three quarters of adults (74 percent) feel that most people who die by suicide show some signs before, and more than 40 percent feel it can be prevented always/often. Yet only a quarter (26 percent) think they could tell if someone is suicidal.

Americans are savvier than ever about the need for access to mental health care and its pivotal role in preventing suicide. As important is the fact that addressing mental health problems also improves outcomes for physical conditions as people become better able to take care of themselves.”Maria Oquendo, M.D., APA President-elect

Stigma of mental illness and suicide still plays a big role in people not seeking treatment. When it comes to seeking treatment, the survey found age made a difference. Younger adults ages 18-34 are more likely to consider it a sign of strength to see a mental health professional, compared with older adults, and also more likely to believe that suicide can always or often be prevented. Adults ages 54 and younger are more likely to have received treatment for a mental health condition than those 55 and older.

The survey also addressed peoples’ understanding of potential risk factors for suicide. The top two categories, each identified by 86 percent of adults, were mental health conditions (including depression PTSD and bipolar disorder) and life situations (including feeling hopeless, being bullied, financial problems, relationship problems, losing a job and going through a divorce). Drug and alcohol use and chronic condition/pain were each identified by about two-thirds of adults while less than half (47 percent) identified anxiety/panic disorder as a risk factor for suicide.

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