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Who faces stigma as a result of mental health disorders?


Anyone who is suffering from a mental health and/or addictive disorder is likely to face stigma at home or school, in the community, or in the workplace. And mental illnesses (e.g. depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia) are more widespread than people realize. The 2010 National Survey on Drug Use and Health reports that 45.9 million American adults aged 18 or older, or 20 percent of this age group, experienced mental illness in the past year.

Adolescents and young adults are at higher risk for disorders affected by stigma:


Nearly 1 out of 5 persons age 18-24 reports having a mental illness.

According to the National Comorbidity Survey, half of all serious adult psychiatric illnesses — including major depression, anxiety disorders, and substance abuse — start by 14 years of age, and three fourths of them are present by 25 years of age. Yet the majority of mental illness in young people goes unrecognized and untreated, leaving them vulnerable to emotional, social, and academic impairments during a critical phase of their lives. Even those who receive treatment tend to do so only after a long delay: 6 to 8 years for patients with mood disorders and 9 to 23 years for those with anxiety disorders.

Almost two-thirds of 18 to 24 year olds know someone with depression or alcoholism, and more than 40 percent of the 18 to 24 year old population know others with a drug addiction.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in 2009, suicide was the third leading cause of death for young people ages 10 to 24.

Older adults are at risk for the full range of mental disorders, yet these problems are often overlooked or dismissed:


Studies have shown that more than one in five Americans aged 65 and older experience mental illness, and that as many as 80 percent of elderly persons in nursing homes suffer from some kind of mental impairment.

elderly woman receiving healthcareThe National Institute of Mental Health estimates that 60 percent of older Americans with depression are not receiving the mental health care that they need. Failure to treat this illness leads to poorer health outcomes for other medical conditions, higher rates of institutionalization, and increased health care costs.

Suicide rates increase with age, with more than 5,000 deaths from suicide by older adults every year, with 80 percent of these suicides committed by white men, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Substance abuse is often a hidden problem among older adults. It is estimated that 17 percent of people 60 years old and older misuse alcohol and other drugs, including prescription drugs, according to the American Society on Aging.