The State of Mental Health in America: A Growing, Silent Epidemic

Mental health issues are a decades-long issue that continues to plague Americans nationwide. Still, mental health as a whole remains largely unaddressed and underfunded. The COVID-19 pandemic has only magnified the toll of mental illness, making it a significant public health concern.

Every year, one in five adults in the US experience mental illness. Additionally, one in 25 Americans have severe mental health conditions like schizophrenia or bipolar disorder. Minority groups, who often face poverty, racism, and discrimination, experience higher rates of mental health issues.

The impact of mental illness on our society is far-reaching and devastating. People with mental illness struggle with unemployment, homelessness, or end up in prison, which can strain mental health. For those who do have jobs, their productivity may suffer because of their condition, resulting in more absences.

This article will discuss some contributing factors to America's mental health crisis, including healthcare access. It will also discuss how better health and wellness activities can improve one’s outlook on the mental health epidemic.

Contributing Factors to American Mental Health Issues

Various factors impact the mental health crisis in America, such as access to healthcare, economic instability, and social stigma. The specific issues contributing to mental health concerns include physical and emotional abuse, poverty, racism, and discrimination. In addition, the stigma that surrounds mental illness in many communities prevents people from seeking the treatment they need. 

Although the primary factors are easy to spot, some less obvious ones are just as important. For example, the lack of proper nutrition and exercise can lead to poor mental health. The same is true for poor sleep quality and lack of exercise in sedentary and remote workers.

Unfortunately, those who struggle with chronic illness or are sick more frequently suffer from additional stress. This is especially true for those in poverty or with limited healthcare access. Since our immune health connects with our mental health, we should take steps to boost our immunity.

It sounds easy to address chronic illness and mental health in America, but it’s a complicated issue requiring stakeholders' attention. 

Mental Healthcare Access In America

The lack of healthcare access is a primary factor leading to increased mental illness in America. Many individuals struggle to pay for essential mental health services, while inadequate coverage keeps others from accessing them. The stigma surrounding mental health keeps many people from seeking help – which can worsen their condition. 

Unfortunately, only half of adults with mental illness receive treatment, and even less can access care that meets their needs. Those with access often face costly co-pays and long wait times for appointments with a mental health professional. 

The Price of Mental Health Services in America

Cost is a massive barrier to people with mental health concerns in America. A survey conducted by Verywell Mind determined that 31% of participants had to pause their therapy appointments to afford other expenses. More analysis reveals that 80% still think therapy is worth the money, but 40% need financial assistance. 

According to an Open Minds survey, consumer spending on mental health treatment skyrocketed to $225 billion in 2019. Out-of-pocket costs for mental health services continue to rise despite legislation attempting to regulate them. The pricing model prevents accessibility to therapy by eternalizing the cycle of poverty and homelessness among America's most vulnerable populations. 

America’s Stigma Surrounding Mental Health

The stigma around mental health is a major concern in many communities. This stigma often keeps individuals from seeking help, making them suffer silently. It also can create issues for those who do seek treatment. Medical professionals or employers may challenge the validity of their mental health concerns and create more barriers. 

Stigmas surrounding mental health disorders can also lead to isolation, shame, and guilt. These negative attitudes discourage individuals from seeking help or making positive life changes. Instead, they participate in activities that drive them to develop a substance use disorder.

Communities Without Mental Health Resources

Providers don’t distribute mental health resources equally throughout the United States. Many rural communities lack access to quality mental healthcare, which devastates those needing help. Despite a growing awareness, many never receive the necessary treatment to improve their situation. 

These issues continue to plague the mental health landscape in America, with no clear solution in sight. We must destigmatize mental illness and improve access to quality healthcare for everyone. With increased awareness and better access to mental health services, we can work together to create a more mentally healthy America. 

Poor Nutrition: A Lesser Known Contributor to Mental Health

Believe it or not, few people know about the connection between nutrition and mental health. Poor nutrition can influence mood disorders such as anxiety and depression. A study in the British Medical Journal mentions that unhealthy dietary habits can lead to obesity and diabetes. 

In this study, obesity and diabetes lead to poorer mental health outcomes. The Western diet is high in processed or packaged foods, which have higher trans fat and can negatively affect your mood. Scientists can also link saturated fats to increased anxiety levels. 

On the contrary, diets rich in fruits, vegetables, and other nutrient-dense foods contribute to improved mental well-being. Evidence suggests that poor food choices lead to depression by impacting serotonin levels, a neurotransmitter that helps regulate mood. Furthermore, Harvard Health explains that certain nutrients are crucial in maintaining gut health

A healthy gut lining provides a strong barrier against toxins and "bad" bacteria, limiting inflammation that could harm your brain health. It’s evident that there is a two-way relationship between better nutrition and improved mental health. Adding multivitamin supplements can help men and women who struggle to meet their needs through their diets alone. 

However, supplements shouldn’t replace healthy eating habits but complement them.

Sleep Deprivation and Deficiency: The Toll on Mental Health

Sleep deprivation and deficiency can profoundly affect your mental health, too. Even those without mental health problems may feel more anxious and distressed after getting less sleep, says Columbia Psychiatry. Our brains use sleep time to process emotions and experiences from the day.

Insufficient sleep can disrupt these processes, heightening emotional responses and stress. Inadequate sleep can also lead to frequent mental distress. Distress could manifest as sadness, hopelessness, nervousness, or restlessness.

Over time, these feelings become chronic and contribute to depression and other mental disorders. The Sleep Foundation further highlights the close connection between sleep and mental health, suggesting links to bipolar disorder. Insufficient sleep can intensify symptoms of these disorders, creating a vicious cycle of poor sleep and worsening mental health.

Certain sleep aid supplements may help promote better sleep quality and duration for those with sleep disorders. However, sleep supplements should complement other healthy sleep habits for the best results.

The Effects of the Covid-19 Pandemic on American Mental Health

We've all faced the roadblocks imposed by COVID-19 since the beginning of 2020. We can’t overstate the mental health toll of this crisis on vulnerable Americans. The initial months of quarantine saw a 25% increase in anxiety and depression among 18-24 year olds.

The virus worsens mental health problems because people are alone and scared of the virus. The economic impact led to widespread job losses and financial insecurity, further contributing to mental distress. Losing a job could lead to feelings of worthlessness, self-doubt, and long-term anxiety. 

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is also likely among those with painful memories of the COVID-19 pandemic. Some of the most severe cases are among healthcare workers and other first responders. However, even regular citizens experience PTSD from the pandemic. 

Programs That Help Those With Mental Health Struggles

With all the available information, it's important to remember that help is available. There are numerous programs and organizations, both public and private, that provide mental health resources to those in need. These services include counseling, group therapy, medication management, and more. 

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration 

SAMHSA is a government agency that helps people get better access to mental health services in the United States. They provide information on treatment options, funding resources, and more. Additionally, many states have mental health networks with counselors, therapists, and other support services. 

Anxiety and Depression Association of America

The ADAA aims to stop, treat, and cure anxiety-related issues through education, practice, and research. The organization helps people with mental health disorders through a large community of professionals, educational activities, and training programs.

The Trevor Project

The Trevor Project offers invaluable mental health resources to the LGBTQ+ community aged 25 and below. It’s their mission to provide aid for issues with anxiety, depression, eating disorders, substance abuse, and suicide prevention. The project offers young queer workers or family members a safe space to seek support.

National Alliance on Mental Illness

NAMI is helping to improve mental health by supporting public education, advocating for people with mental illness, and developing resources. They aim to reduce stigma and create a better mental health system. 

The organization provides support groups and educational courses to improve the lives of anyone dealing with these conditions. NAMI believes everyone deserves quality care and strives to reduce the stigma for a brighter future.

Final Thoughts

The state of mental health in America is a complex and ever-evolving issue. Many obstacles stop people from getting good care, like money, lack of resources in rural areas, and stigma around mental illness. Fortunately, we can work together to make a difference. 

We can start by increasing awareness and removing the stigma of mental health issues. Organizations can also provide education and resources that highlight the importance of self-care. Furthermore, medical professionals must acknowledge that comprehensive health and wellness solutions can heal individuals struggling with mental health.

The state of mental health in America requires our attention and action. We must strive for better access to more affordable treatment and create an America where everyone can access quality mental healthcare.