Mental illness is relatively common in the United States. In fact, the National Institute of Mental Health reports that about 20% of U.S. adults have a mental health condition. While mental health disorders have significantly impacted the United States, the country is not alone in its plight against mental illness. Mental health conditions affect people across the globe, but there are variations in prevalence rates of mental health conditions, as well as differences in how mental illness is treated in different countries.
Most Common Mental Health Conditions in the United States and Across the Globe
According to a recent report from the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), anxiety disorders are the most common mental health condition in the United States, affecting 19.1 % of U.S. adults within a given year. The prevalence of other mental health conditions in the United States is as follows:
- Major depression: 7.8% in a given year
- Bipolar Disorder: 2.8%
- PTSD: 3.6%
- Obsessive-compulsive disorder: 1.2%
- Borderline personality disorder: 1.4%
- Schizophrenia: Less than 1%
To put the above numbers in perspective, it is helpful to compare rates of these conditions in the United States to those seen globally:
- Depression: 3.4%
- Anxiety: 3.8%
- Bipolar disorder: 0.6%
- Schizophrenia: 0.3%
Compared to other countries, the United States has a high rate of depression, but depression across the globe is relatively common. Recent data show that Russia, China, India, Iran, and Nigeria also have high rates of depression.
A separate study has also analyzed the prevalence of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) across the globe, with findings revealing that the highest rates of this condition are in Northern Ireland, where 8.8% of the population has experienced PTSD at some point during their lives. Countries with lower lifetime prevalence were as follows:
- South Africa: 2.3%
- Spain: 2.2%
- Italy: 2.4%
- Japan: 1.3%
How are mental health disorders treated in the United States and across the globe?
In the U.S., mental illness is commonly treated via one of two modalities: somatic treatments, which include medications, electroconvulsive therapy, and brain stimulation techniques like transcranial magnetic stimulation, and psychotherapy, which includes individual, group, and family/couples counseling. There are two common forms of psychotherapy in the United States. One is psychodynamic therapy, in which patients explore how past relationships and subconscious thoughts, feelings, desires, and fears are impacting their current functioning. Then, there’s cognitive behavioral therapy, in which therapists teach clients to replace unrealistic, unhelpful thoughts and worries with more rational ways of thinking. One recent study in the American Journal of Psychiatry found that these two treatment modalities were equally effective.
Unfortunately, not everyone who needs mental health treatment receives it, and this is true both in the United States and across the globe. According to NAMI, under half of Americans with mental illness receive treatment. Research also demonstrates that mental health conditions have historically been treated in central psychiatric hospitals or clinics in low- and middle-income countries, with many people not having access to treatment.
In recent years, nations across the world have been a part of UN efforts to improve mental health care. Chile has provided an example of an improved treatment model, in which general practitioners and mental health professionals work together to treat mental health conditions. For example, a team of mental health clinicians and physicians may work side-by-side with a patient who has depression and diabetes, which acknowledges the overlap between mental and physical conditions and removes some of the stigma associated with receiving treatment for mental illness. The U.S. and other countries with high rates of mental illness would benefit from adopting a similar model.
The Impact of Healthcare Systems on Mental Health Treatment
There are differences in the ways mental illness is treated among different countries, and specific healthcare systems can impact the provision of services. Some mental health advocates argue that the adoption of a single-payer healthcare system would improve access to mental health treatment in the United States, but research findings on the matter are mixed. Canada has had a single-payer healthcare system for years, but mental health treatment in the country has continued to show a need for reform.
While Canada’s single-payer system has proven to be imperfect for addressing mental health conditions, Switzerland may provide a better model. According to experts, health insurance providers in Switzerland are required to offer comprehensive policies that cover a range of conditions, and governmental authorities regulate them. Policies must cover mental health and substance abuse care. Compared to the United States, Switzerland’s treatment costs associated with mental health conditions and alcohol abuse are lower. The Swiss government also regulates the cost of services, and the maximum yearly amount citizens are required to pay for outpatient mental health services is $700.
In the United States, the passage of the Affordable Care Act provided more Americans with access to insurance and behavioral health treatment, but the costs of private insurance have risen, and some people with mental health conditions are still denied treatment. Adopting a single-payer system in the United States would protect everyone by providing insurance, but it may be difficult to gain nationwide acceptance of such a system. Some believe that mental health reform is needed, as under half of Americans with mental illness receive treatment.
For patients who have had difficulty receiving effective treatment for depression, transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) is an option. Designed for those who have not responded to other forms of treatment, TMS stimulates areas of the brain involved in mood regulation through the use of magnetic coils. Pulse TMS is located in Los Angeles and accepts many insurances to make treatment more affordable. Contact us today to get started.