Mental Health

Many Americans Know Little about Mental Illnesses

Many Americans Know Little about Mental Illnesses


Many Americans Know Little about Mental Illnesses, Most Agree Knowing

Warnings Signs Would Help, New Survey Shows


April 25, 9:00 a.m. (EDT) Arlington, Va.   A survey released today by the American Psychiatric Association (APA) found
a significant lack of consumer knowledge and understanding about the warning signs, causes,
and effective treatments for mental illnesses, such as depression. Almost half the public 44
percent report knowing only a little or almost nothing at all about mental illnesses. But asked
whether they would benefit from knowing more about the warning signs of mental illness, 84
percent said yes.

 The consequences of this gap in knowledge are quite serious, said Carolyn Robinowitz, M.D.,
secretary-treasurer and 2006 president-elect of the APA.  About one-in-five Americans suffer
from a diagnosable mental disorder during any given year. This means few families are
untouched by a mental illness. All families will benefit from understanding how these disorders
can impact their lives.

The survey also showed that one-third of Americans mistakenly think that emotional or personal
weakness is a major cause of mental illnesses and almost as many think old age is a major cause.
In fact, research shows the causes of mental illnesses are genetic and environmental factors,
traumatic events, and other physical illnesses and injuries that have psychiatric side effects.
Robinowitz noted that advances in medical science have led to new and innovative treatments
that help people live full and productive lives.  Today we know more than ever about how the
brain works and how it affects overall health,  Robinowitz said.  We need to make sure
Americans get the benefit of these discoveries, and that means dispelling myths and providing
the facts so that people get the help they need. We really can help Americans have healthy
minds so they can enjoy healthy lives.

Indeed treatments for mental illnesses are effective. The National Institute of Mental Health
(NIMH) recently found the rate of successful treatment for depression (70-80 percent) compares
favorably to the rate for other chronic illnesses, such as heart disease (45-50 percent). The
survey showed that many Americans do not understand that common mental illnesses can be
successfully treated most of the time.

“Left untreated, mental illnesses can take an enormous toll on family life, the workplace, and
society as a whole,  Robinowitz said. Mental disorders comprise four of the 10 leading causes
of disability in the U.S. and the economic burden of depression alone was estimated at
billion in 2000.
Additional Findings
  Psychiatrists are uniquely qualified to help: Eighty-seven percent say it is important to
have a medical degree when it comes to being able to diagnose and treat mental illnesses.
  Stigma persists: Thirty-one percent of adults surveyed say they would not seek treatment
because they fear what others may think.
  Mental health groups and the media can help with positive images: Almost two-thirds of
adults surveyed say positive stories in the news media about mental illnesses and positive
portrayals of people with mental illnesses in television programs and movies would have
 quite a lot  or  some  influence in overcoming the stigma associated with mental
illnesses.

 The most important point is for people to understand that mental illnesses are real and highly
treatable, said Robinowitz.  Through the APA’s ‘Healthy Minds. Healthy Lives.’ campaign,
we are providing the most up-to-date, science-based information on common mental health
concerns, warning signs, where to turn for help, and treatment options.’
For professional help, people can turn to their primary care physician or a psychiatrist.
As medical doctors, psychiatrists specialize in how the brain works. They are the only mental
health practitioners who are trained in the biological workings of the mind and body.

About the American Psychiatric Association:
The American Psychiatric Association is a national medical specialty society whose more than
37,000 physician members specialize in the diagnosis, treatment and prevention of mental
illnesses including substance use disorders. Healthy Minds. Healthy Lives. Care that works to
get your mind healthy again so you can lead a healthy life.
May is Mental Health Month. Learn more by visiting the APA‘s consumer Web site at
www.healthyminds.org.
About the Survey:
This national survey of 1,005 American adults ages 18 and older was conducted for the
American Psychiatric Association March 17-21, 2006 by Knowledge Networks. The sample is
based on a methodology designed to produce a representative sample of the U.S. adult
population.
Margin of error: The results achieved from all sample surveys are subject to sampling error.
Sampling error is defined as the difference between the results obtained from the sample and
those that would have been obtained had the entire relevant population been surveyed. The
sampling error for the total sample of this survey (n = 1,005) is plus or minus 3.1 percentage
points. Please note that when comparing smaller subgroups, such as respondents divided by
gender categories, or income, the margin of error increases.

SOURCE:-Porter Novelli: 202-973-1360
Lydia Sermons-Ward at APA
703-907-8640 or [email protected]psych.org

SOURCE:-Porter Novelli: 202-973-1360
Lydia Sermons-Ward at APA
703-907-8640 or [email protected]psych.org

Reviewed by Forum Admin 01-05-10

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