More Americans Getting Mental Health Treatment

Deborah Brauser

January 27, 2015

Behavioral health in the United States appears to be improving, especially for those between the ages of 12 and 17 years, a new report suggests.

The latest national behavioral health barometer from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) showed that treatment for adults with mental illness increased from 62.9% in 2012 to 68.5% 1 year later. Substance use treatment for all age groups also increased significantly.

In addition, adolescent use of illicit drugs decreased from 10.1% in 2009 to 8.8% in 2013, and use of nicotine cigarettes fell from 9% to 5.6%. Binge drinking and nonmedical use of pain relievers also decreased.

"The Barometer provides new insight into what is happening on the ground in states across the country," Pamela S. Hyde, SAMHSA's administrator, said in a release.

"States and local communities use these data to determine the most effective ways of addressing their behavioral healthcare needs," she added.

The report was released by SAMHSA on January 26.

Unique Overview

The investigators examined data on substance use and mental health from a variety of sources sponsored by SAMHSA. These included the National Survey of Substance Abuse Treatment Services, the National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), and the Monitoring the Future (MTF) survey.

"This array of indicators provides a unique overview of the nation's behavioral health at a point in time as well as a mechanism for tracking change and trends over time," writes Hyde in the report's introduction.

"As new data become available, indicators highlighted in these reports will be updated to reflect the current state of the science and incorporate new measures of interest," she adds.

Results showed that 6.9 million adults with a serious mental illness (68.5%) in 2013 received treatment in the prior year. This was almost 6% higher than in 2012.

There was also a 6% increase from 2009 to 2013 in substance use treatment for all individuals (from 1.18 million to 1.25 million).

For youth, binge drinking in the previous month decreased from 8.9% in 2009 to 6.2% in 2013. Still, this practice in 2013 was highest in white (7.3%) and Hispanic adolescents (6.3%) in comparison with Native American (5.6%), Pacific Islander (4.5%), black (3.9%), and Asian (2.8%) teens.

In addition, the percentage of all adolescents who used marijuana in the previous month decreased from a high of 7.9% in 2011 to 7.2% in 2012 and 7.1% in 2013. However, since 2008, all of these numbers have been above the Healthy People 2020 recommended target of 6%.

Both the NSDUH for adolescents between the ages of 12 and 17 years and the MTF for 12th graders also showed a decrease in nonmedical use of pain relievers. This included 9.3% of the MTF boys in 2012 vs 8.4% in 2013; and 6.5% vs 5.6% of the girls.

In the NSDUH, 5.1% of the boys and 5.6% of the girls in 2012 used these substances nonmedically vs 4.5% and 4.8%, respectively, in 2013.

Access to Care by State

Between 2009 and 2013, use of illicit drugs dropped for adolescents overall, as well as for white and Hispanic adolescents specifically. However, the number did not decrease for black adolescents.

Use of cigarettes within the prior month dropped for all, white, Hispanic, and black adolescents. Interestingly, whites had the highest use rate (7.2% vs 3.7% and 3.2%, respectively) in 2013.

Past-year treatment for depression in this age group was reported by only 40.9% of the girls and 29.7% of the boys in 2013, and by 38.1% of all adolescents with a major depressive episode. The latter figure has not changed significantly since 2009.

SAMSHA also released a series of 51 reports that examined each state and the District of Columbia individually.

"It provides vital information on the progress being made in each state as well as the challenges before them," said Hyde.

A report released earlier this month by Mental Health America, and reported at the time by Medscape Medical News, also examined mental health status across the states. It showed that Massachusetts had the highest rate of access to care and the lowest prevalence of mental illness, followed by Vermont, Maine, North Dakota, and Delaware.

On the other hand, the five lowest ranking states for access to care were Arizona, Mississippi, Nevada, Washington, and Louisiana.

Overall, the current reports "provide critical information to a variety of audiences in support of...reducing the impact of substance abuse and mental illness on America's communities," Hyde concluded.

The overall and state-by-state reports are available for download on SAMHSA's website.

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