People Matter

In order to support individuals that experience mental illness, it is important to understand how mental illness affects our communities. Below are statistics about how mental illness affects the general population of the United States as well individual communities within the general population. In addition, I have also included a list of useful resources for further research. I hope that this post gives everyone a better understanding of how mental illness affects our communities. Its far more common than one might think…

As always, love and respect!

General Population:

  • 43 million adults experienced any mental illness in 2015.
  • 8 million adults experienced serious mental illness in 2015 (severe impairment).
  • 1% of children 13 to 18 years old will experience a mental illness in their lifetime, 13.1% during a 12 month period.
  • Roughly half (58.7%) of people experiencing a serious mental illness will seek treatment.
  • Roughly half (50.7%) of children 8 to 15 years old will seek treatment.
  • 57% of state prisoners, 45% of federal prisoners, and 67% of local prisoners experience a mental illness during a 12 month period. Fewer than half will receive treatment.


  • Mental illnesses affect both men and women, but men are less likely to seek treatment.
  • Alcohol and substance abuse is most common in men, affecting 1 in 5.
  • Men are three as likely as women to be diagnosed with antisocial personality disorder.
  • White males have the highest rate of suicide in the United States, with firearms being the most common method.
  • A man is 10 times more likely than a woman to succeed in taking his own life.


  • Anxiety and Depression are the predominant mental illnesses that affect women.
  • Depression is twice as common in women as in men and tends to be more persistent.
  • Risk factors impacting women’s mental health include: violence, social and economic inequality, poverty, and stresses related to gender roles, such as childcare.
  • Women are impacted by prejudicial diagnoses. They are more likely to be diagnosed with a mental illness and more likely to be prescribed psychiatric medication.
  • Women are twice as likely as men to attempt suicide, with overdose being the most common method.

People of Color:

African Americans –

  • The prevalence of mental illnesses among African Americans is similar to the general population, although rates of treatment seeking are lower.
  • They are 20% more likely to experience a severe mental illness (schizophrenia, bipolar depression) largely due to more limited access to mental health resources and greater exposure to violence and poverty.
  • Misunderstanding about mental illness, such as a belief that an illness is a punishment from God, is common in African American communities, especially communities affected by poverty.

Latinxs –

  • The prevalence of mental illness is similar in this community to the general population.
  • The latinx community is 20% less likely to seek treatment for mental illness. Some contributing factors include misdiagnosis, language barriers, legal status, and lack of access to health insurance, and the tendency of some communities to rely on traditional methods of healing.
  • In general, the latinx community does not talk about mental health. A common saying is “La ropa sucia se lava in casa,” (don’t air your dirty laundry in public). This is often compounded by a misunderstanding of mental health similar to that of the African American community.

Asian Americans –

  • The prevalence of mental illness in this community is similar to that of the general population although treatment seeking behavior is significantly lower in this community than the general population.
  • The experience and perception of unfair/discriminatory treatment can increase the likelihood of individuals in this community experiencing mental illness. Additionally family and cultural stress related to assimilation into the mainstream culture are associated with increased exposure to domestic violence, increasing the risk of mental illness.
  • Like other groups, language, access of health insurance, and education also impact the likelihood of Asian Americans to seek mental health treatment.

Native Americans –

  • Native Americans have a higher rate of mental illness than the general population, although they account of 1.2% of the population, they have 21% prevalence rate of mental illness or 830,000 people affected.
  • Contributing factors include higher rates of crime victimization (twice that of African Americans), increase poverty and unemployment, and higher rates of drug and alcohol abuse.
  • Although mental illness is recognized within the community, lack of access of health insurance, lack of understanding of available resources, and misdiagnosis by mainstream healthcare workers all contribute to lower rates of treatment.

LGBTQIA Community:

  • This community experiences mental illness at 3 times the rate of the general population. Common conditions include major depression, posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), suicide, and drug and alcohol abuse.
  • The experience of mental illness in this community is impacted by prejudice, discrimination, and stigma experienced in the mainstream culture.
  • Members of this community frequently do not talk about their mental health conditions and routinely hide them from family, friends, and healthcare works to avoid ridicule.
  • In addition to prejudice and stigma, denial of civil and human rights, higher rates of criminal victimization, higher rates of drug and alcohol abuse, social exclusion, social isolation, and familial rejection all impact experiences of mental and treatment seeking behavior.
  • LGBTQIA individuals are 3 to 4 times more likely to attempt suicide than the general population.

Income Disadvantaged:

  • The overwhelming majority of people living with mental health disorders experience poverty, poor physical health, and civil rights abuses. Common mental health disorders are twice as common among the poor than among the wealthy.
  • People living in poverty are 8 times as likely as the general population to experience schizophrenia.
  • Food insecurity, large debts, lower education, higher rates of unemployment, and poor and overcrowded housing situations all contribute to higher rates of mental illness.
  • The relationship between poverty and mental illness appears to be cyclical: poverty increases the risk for mental illness while mental illness increases risk factors for poverty such as unemployment and divorce.
  • Although the poor are more likely to experience mental illness, mental health care is largely ignored in the services and budgets of the development groups and government organizations that are supposed to care for them.

Prison Population:

  • Approximately half of all local, state, and federal prison inmates experience some type of mental illness within a given 12 month period.
  • The experience of homelessness and foster care common among prisoners that experience mental illnesses.
  • Additionally, inmates with mental illness are more likely to have experienced physical or sexual abuse.
  • Once in prison, most inmates do not get the mental healthcare that they need. After leaving prison, a criminal record makes it more difficult to find employment or housing, increasing the risk factors for poverty and, therefore, increasing the risk for more severe mental illness.
  • Inmates with mental illness, on average, serve 4 months longer than inmates without mental illness.


For more information, see these resources:

National Institute of Mental Health,

Centers for Disease Control,

National Alliance on Mental Illness,

Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration,

Anxiety and Depression Association of America,

World Health Organization,

Mental Health America,



Author: nicoledance16

I am a passionate choreographer, teacher, and performer!

One thought on “People Matter”

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