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SAMHSA News - Volume XI, Number 4, 2003

New Report Points to Cost as a Major Barrier to Mental Health Care

Less than half of U.S. adults with a serious mental illness received treatment or counseling for a mental health problem during the past year, according to a recent short report from SAMHSA's National Survey on Drug Use and Health, formerly the National Household Survey on Drug Abuse. Among the more than 2 million adults with serious mental illness who did not receive treatment but felt that they needed it, half (50 percent) reported that the cost of care was a reason they did not receive treatment.

Other major barriers to receiving treatment included having concerns about what family members, friends, or employers might think (28 percent), not knowing where to go for treatment (26 percent), the fear of being committed or having to take medication (9 percent), and the lack of time or transportation (8 percent).

For the purposes of this study, prepared by SAMHSA's Office of Applied Studies (OAS), treatment is defined as receiving services or counseling in an inpatient or outpatient setting, or taking prescription medication to help alleviate a mental or emotional condition.

The survey found that females (11 percent) were more likely to have serious mental illness in the past year than males (6 percent). Females with serious mental illness were more likely to have received treatment than their male counterparts. Young adults age 18 to 25 had higher rates of past-year serious mental illness (13 percent) than adults age 26 to 49 (10 percent) and those age 50 or older (5 percent).

Yet, of the three age groups, only 34 percent of young adults with serious mental illness received treatment in the
past year compared to 54 percent of those age 26 to 49 and 46 percent of adults age 50 and older. Whites with serious mental illness (52 percent) were more likely than blacks (37 percent) or Hispanics (38 percent) to have received mental
health treatment in the past year.

To obtain an electronic copy of this report, Reasons for Not Receiving Treatment Among Adults with Serious Mental Illness, go to SAMHSA’s Web site at For other OAS reports on mental health, go to End of Article

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    SAMHSA News - Volume XI, Number 4, 2003

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