Facts about Mental Illnesses


An estimated 20 percent of adult American - 1 in 5 adults - have a diagnosable mental disorder in a given year.  That's almost 46 million American adults.   Annually, 11.4 million American adults have a severe mental illness, defined as one that resulted in serious functional impairment, which substantially interfered with or limited one or more major life activities.  

Women are affected twice as often as men by most forms of depression and anxiety disorders, and nine times as often by eating disorders.  One out of four women will suffer from clinical depression; only 20 percent of those women will get the help they need.


In 2010 38,364 American completed suicide.  An estimated 8.7 million American adults had serious thoughts of suicide in the past year – among them 2.5 million made suicide plans and 1.1 million attempted suicide. 

The economic impact of mental illness in the United States is considerable—about $300 billion in 2002. According to the World Health Organization, mental illness accounts for more disability in developed countries than any other group of illnesses, including cancer and heart disease.


Only 40% of those with any mental disorder seek treatment each year.  Mental illnesses are treatable, especially when treatment is not delayed. For persons of any age, early detection and treatment can help prevent mental illness from worsening and can improve the individual’s chances for recovery.  It is important for everyone, including providers, friends, and family, to be informed about the symptoms of mental illnesses, to be knowledgeable about treatment options, and to have an understanding of stigma and recovery.

 Sources: The 2010 National Survey on Drug Use and Health and the CDC

Other Mental Health Issues

Many mental health issues can occur at the same time as diagnosable mental illnesses and can complicate treatment and recovery.  And some issues can increase the risk of a person developing a mental illness.

A growing body of research shows a strong link between mental health conditions and chronic physical diseases, functional impairment, and overall quality of life. If left unaddressed or unrecognized co-occurring mental health and physical health disorders may affect a person’s ability to adequately meet the demands of daily living.

Depression often co-exists with other serious physical illnesses such as heart disease, stroke, cancer, HIV/AIDS, diabetes, and Parkinson's disease. Studies have shown that people who have depression in addition to another serious medical illness tend to have more severe symptoms of both depression and the medical illness, more difficulty adapting to their medical condition, and more medical costs than those who do not have co–existing depression. Research has yielded increasing evidence that treating the depression can also help improve the outcome of treating the co–occurring illness.

In general, people with a mental illness have greater difficulty accessing healthcare, or receive inadequate care, compared to the general population.  Providing quality healthcare to individuals with mental illness in an Emergency Department setting is likely to require the collaboration of multiple parties with varying perspectives; the best way to start is by sharing experiences and concerns, and exploring possible solutions.  To read more about this topic download our document "Improving Care to Persons with Mental Illness in the Emergency Department: Selected Highlights of Relevant Research Findings"

"Mental Health in the Emergency Department"
Learn more about our Initiative:
Improving Care for Persons with Mental Illnesses in the Emergency Department Setting



Linking Mental and Physical Health: Results from the Wisconsin Behavioral Risk Factor Survey  (PDF, 1,151 KB) (Wisconsin Department of Health Services Report, April 2009)

"Get it Together: How to Integrate Physical and Mental Health Care for People with Serious Mental Disorders"  - a report from the Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law, which examines model programs for improving integration and coordination of behavioral health and primary health services for adults and children with serious mental health problems. It summarizes findings of a series of studies and offers recommendations for policymakers.

Suicide Prevention Lifeline call 1-800-273-8255

Suicide is a significant public health problem.  Around 38,000 people die by suicide each year in the United States. More people die by suicide each year than by homicide. People who have the highest risk of suicide are white men. But women and teens report more suicide attempts.

The main risk factors for suicide are:

  • Depression, other mental disorders, or substance abuse disorder
  • A prior suicide attempt
  • Family history of a mental disorder or substance abuse
  • Family history of suicide
  • Family violence, including physical or sexual abuse
  • Having guns or other firearms in the home
  • Incarceration, being in prison or jail
  • Being exposed to others' suicidal behavior, such as that of family members, peers, or media figures.

If someone talks about suicide, you should take it seriously. Urge them to get help from their doctor or the emergency room, or call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255). It is available 24/7.

Prevent Suicide Wisconsin (resources and listings of coalitions across the state)

HOPES (Wisconsin-based non-profit dedicated to suicide prevention and support for those who have lost a loved one - web site includes a list of support groups in Wisconsin)

Suicide Prevention Links (Mental Health America of Wisconsin)

Burden of Suicide in Wisconsin Report (Mental Health America of Wisconsin)

Suicide Prevention Resource Center (Evidence-based suicide prevention resources)

A traumatic event is an experience that causes physical, emotional, psychological distress, or harm. It is an event that is perceived and experienced as a threat to one's safety or to the stability of one's world. There are many different responses to crisis. Most survivors have

intense feelings after a traumatic event but recover from the trauma; others have more difficulty recovering — especially those who have had previous traumatic experiences, who are faced with ongoing stress, or who lack support from friends and family — and will need additional help.

Trauma-Informed Care is a philosophical shift, which involves the Incorporation of knowledge about trauma (prevalence, impact, and recovery) in all aspects of service delivery. To learn more, view this PowerPoint presentation: Trauma-Informed Care (TIC) Resource. For more information contact: Elizabeth Hudson, LCSW, Trauma-Informed Care Consultant, at 608-266-2771 or Elizabeth.Hudson@wisconsin.gov

National Center for Trauma-Informed Care (a technical assistance center dedicated to building awareness of trauma-informed care and promoting the implementation of trauma-informed practices in programs and services; SAMHSA)

Coping With a Traumatic Event: Information for the Health Professionals (NIMH)

Coping With a Traumatic Event: Information for the Public (NIMH)

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