Tag Archives: SAMHSA

How Many Americans Experienced Mental Illness in the Past Year?

Recent data suggests that 19.9% of adults in the United States have experienced mental illness within the past year. Of the 45 million adults, nearly 9 million (20%) also had a substance use disorder.

SAMHSA’s report, Results from the 2009 National Survey on Drug Use: Mental Health Findings indicates that 11 million, or nearly 5%, of adults had a serious, diagnosable, mental illness that substantially interfered with one or more major life activities in the past year.

In many cases, those experiencing a serious mental disorder also had a co-existing substance use disorder. A substance use disorder is defined as abuse or dependency on alcohol or an illicit drug.

Among those with a serious mental illness in the past year, 25% had a substance use disorder in the past year. This is approximately four times the amount experienced by people who didn’t have a serious mental illness.

Less than 4 in 10 adults with mental illness received mental health services. 

In 2009, an estimated 8 million adults aged 18 or older had serious thoughts of suicide within that year; 3.9% of thoughts occurred among women while 3.5% occurred among men.

Among the adults aged 18-25, 6% had serious thoughts of suicide. Adults aged 26-49 had 4.3% and adults aged 50 or older had 2.3%.

In 2009, 2 million adults made suicide plans in the past year. Among the 1 million adults who attempted suicide last year, 0.8 million reported having made plans for the suicide while 0.2 million hadn’t made suicide plans.

The report concluded that mental illness is more likely among adults who were unemployed (27.7%) vs. adults who were employed full time (17%).  Obviously America’s overall unemployment rate is high, but if you are unemployed and feeling depressed, take the time to volunteer somewhere. Sitting in your house day after day with nothing to do is only going to make you feel worse. Animal shelters, hospitals, senior homes, and zoos are all great places to volunteer. The Humane Society or local shelter can always use volunteers, and giving animals attention who otherwise would have none is a great use of one’s time.

Age and gender may have an effect on mental illness. Young adults (aged 18-25) reported the highest level of mental illness (30%), while participants aged 50 and older had the lowest at 13%. 23% of women and 15% of men reported having a mental illness.

Drug and alcohol use also effects mental health. Out of 10% of adults with a substance use disorder, 2.2 million adults aged 18 and older had serious thoughts of suicide in 2009.  Suicidal thoughts were higher in adults who had abused drugs within the past year over those adults who had not.

Adults with substance abuse dependence or abuse were also more likely to make a suicide plan or actually attempt suicide then adults without substance abuse.

At Apex Behavioral Health, we offer co-existing treatment for substance abuse and mental disorders. Both issues need to be treated in order for a person to get better. Many clinics will focus treatment strictly on substance abuse, but substance abuse and depression or whatever mental disorder it is need to be addressed and treated too. Substance abuse and depression exist simultaneously and need to be treated as such.

New Studies Show Suicide Attempts Constitute a Significant Portion of Drug Related Hospital ER Visits

A new series of studies that analyzed drug-related hospital emergency room visits throughout the country in 2008 revealed that a substantial percentage of these visits involved suicide attempts. According to these studies conducted by SAMHSA, more than 1 in every 12 (8.8%) drug-related hospital emergency department visit by an adolescent is a suicide attempt. This is double the rate found among cases involving those aged 25 and older (4.4%). The attempted suicide rate among adults aged 18 to 25 was 6.6%.

The vast majority of the suicide attempts by adolescents were made by females (72%). Females made up the majority of cases among young adults aged 18-25, and over 25, but at a decreated rate of 57%.  

Pharmaceutical drugs were involved in more than 9 out of 10 of the drug-related suicide attempt cases. However, there were differences in the patterns of substances used among the various age and gender groups.

Acetaminophen products (Tylenol) were the most commonly used substances involved in emergency room visits by female adolescents attempting sucide (28%), while anti-anxiety drugs were the most commonly used substances in cases involving females aged 25 or older (49%).

Adolescent males admitted for drug-related suicides were more than three times as likely to have used antipsychotic drugs as females were (14% vs 4%).

The studies also revealed differences in the level of follow-up care (inpatient admission, referral to detoxification, or transfer to another hospital facility). These types of differences are often associated with the type of substance used and the age of those attempting suicide.

While over 90% of adolescents admitted for attempting suicide with antidepressants received follow-up care, only 52% of adolescents involving cases with ibuprofen received it.

83% of the cases involving adolescents using alcohol received follow-up care, while only 59% of alcohol related cases among those aged 25 or older received it.

In 2007, suicides in the United States accounted for 34,598 deaths; almost twice the number of homicides at 18,361. To help address this problem, SAMHSA sponsors the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK. This is a network of crisis call centers located throughout the nation that can immediately link a caller seeking help to a trained counselor located closest to the caller. The lifeline is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and are confidential.

“The sheer numbers of young people that continue to end up in costly hospital emergency rooms as a result of substance abuse and suicide is truly alarming and is a clear signal that we must continue to evaluate the impact of behavioral health on health and health care costs,” said SAMHSA Administrator Pamela S. Hyde, J.D. “The studies also point out the need to provide better follow up services after visits to emergency departments and other healthcare settings in working with people who have attempted suicide.”

Suicide Prevention on Campus

“Our Campus Suicide Prevention grantees are generating critical new ideas for reaching students and helping them lead safe and healthy lives.”                           

  -Richard McKeon, Ph.D., Special Advisor for Suicide Prevention

Innovation in Gatekeeper Training

Avatar – the word is all over the media; but can technology help people learn how to identify someone in distress?

Wii Avatar

Wii Avatar

That’s the strategy Joy Himmel, Psy.D., Director of Health and Wellness at Penn State Altoona, is employing to train campus faculty, staff, and students to recognize when someone needs help.

In 2008, Penn State Altoona received a Campus Suicide Prevention Grant from SAMHSA and is using the funds to set up an innovative Web-based gatekeeper trainings for faculty and staff. Next on the list is reaching the 4,100 students who live on campus.

Dr. Himmel plans to use a gaming plan to reach them. Similar to the online world of Second Life and video game consoles like the Nintendo Wii, students will use an avatar. But they won’t be playing a game – they’ll be learning to communicate with at-risk students.

Using a product developed by Penn State University Park, Dr. Himmel adapted a faculty and staff gatekeeper training for the Altoona Campus; the product went live in fall 2009.

“Worrisome Student Behaviors: Minimizing Risk,” features three vignettes that focus on school violence, trouble between classmates, and a student’s erratic behavior, as well as commentary from Penn State counselors.  Faculty and staff can visit the Web site whenever it’s convenient for them – 24 hours per day. The program takes under an hour to complete.

Also included are links to campus-based resources as well as information on how to refer a student to the Health and Wellness Center. More than 100 people have taken the training since October 2009. “We’ve seen great success in terms of university involvement,” Dr. Himmel said.

Currently in development and set for launch in May 2010 is a pilot program that allows students to enter a virtual environment of peers via the technology of avatars.

Two out of five students in the virtual space are identified as having difficulties in academic progress, attitudes, or behavior. Users can communicate to these students and learn skills in identifying students at risk, approaching them, and referring them to resources. “It’s very interactive,” said Dr. Himmel. “If you ask one question, the student will give a certain answer, and then you have to decide how to respond.

If users chose an answer that may not be the best thing to say in a given situation,  the program will give cues for better options.

Students especially are familiar with these types of online environments, Dr. Himmel said. “And critical information is brought directly to them, eliminating the need to carve out several hours for in-person training. I think this kind of technology is where we need to be.”

Cultural Competency Matteres

When they applied for a SAMHSA Campus Suicide Prevention Grant for Tufts University, Michelle Bowdler, M.S.P.H., and Bonnie Lipton, M.P.H., already had cultural competency on their minds.

“As an institution, Tufts really values diversity,” said Ms. Bowdler, Senior Director of Health and Wellness Services. The university operate six culture centers: Asian American, LGBTQ, Latino, Women’s, Africana, and International.
Tufts University

Tufts University

“When we wrote the grant proposal, we informed the center directors about our plans for cultural competency focus groups,” said Ms. Lipton, Program Coordinator and Evaluator for Tufts Community Cares. “We asked them what mental health topic would resonate with their students.”

In spring 2009, Tufts held focus groups with each center, speaking to more than 50 students in total.

“We wanted to learn more about what mental health issues students are facing, how they cope, who they turn to for help, and what else the university can do to help,” Ms. Lipton said.

Focus group questions related to five different areas:

  1. Perceptions regarding student mental health problems on campus
  2. Attitudes about informal help-seeking
  3. Attitudes about counseling services
  4. Beliefs about helping peers
  5. Ideas for enhancing help-seeking behavior for mental health problems.

All six groups discussed how much stress students experience. “Tufts is a rigorous school, so the students are under a lot of academic stress,” Ms. Lipton said. “They also may feel they need to compete with their classmates.”

As a result of this feedback, Tufts Community Cares sponsored stress management sessions at the Africana Center during finals in fall 2009. More sessions are planned, focusing on ways students can take better care of themselves.

“The focus groups allowed us to talk to students about what their culture, race, ethnicity, or religion might lead them to think about mental health care. That information is helping us to create programs and products that will be effective for suicide prevention,” said Ms. Bowdler.

For example, the Latino Center will hold a discussion with first-generation students about their experiences. Planning is under way for discussions open to all first-generation students at Tufts.

In addition, some members of the Asian American focus group expressed concern about how positive and negative stereotypes affect them. A general presentation and another focusing on women’s mental health will be held in spring 2010.

The focus groups had another positive effect on the students. In their evaluations, many students indicated that the discussion helped make them more willing to talk to someone.

Ms. Bowdler feels that Tufts is on the right track. “The simple act of inquiring how to respond to the needs of a specific community helps people feel more comfortable asking for help.”