Nearly one in five adult Americans experienced a diagnosable mental illness last year, according to statistics released recently by the federal government.

Less than half (41 percent) of these 43.7 million adults received any mental health services in 2012. While jarring, these numbers are consistent with statistics gathered for 2011, according to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA).

SAMHSA’s annual National Survey on Drug Use and Health surveys the civilian, noninstitutionalized population of the United States ages 12 and older.

The most prevalent reasons 2012 responders gave for not receiving professional help, according to SAMHSA, were because they could not afford it, thought they could handle the problem without treatment or did not know where to go for services.

Additional highlights of the survey’s findings for 2012:

  • 9 million Americans, or 3.9 percent of adults ages 18 and older, had serious thoughts of suicide in the past year; 2.7 million, or 1.1 percent, made suicide plans, and 1.3 million (0.6 percent) attempted suicide.
  •  2.2 million youths, or 9.1 percent of individuals ages 12 to 17, experienced a major depressive episode in 2012. These youths were more than three times as likely to have a substance abuse disorder than peers their age who did not experience a major depressive episode.
  • Adults who experienced mental illness in 2012 were three times more likely to have met the criteria for substance abuse disorder than those who did not have a mental illness (19.2 percent versus 6.4 percent). Those who had a serious mental illness in 2012 were even more likely to have had substance dependence or abuse (27.3 percent).

With these statistics in mind, the government recently launched, a website with information about the basic signs of mental health problems, news, information and discussions of mental health issues and how to locate help. Users can enter their ZIP code to find mental health services in their local area.

SAMHSA also launched two grant programs that will provide millions of dollars in funding to agencies providing mental health care and outreach to children and youth.


Find SAMHSA’s complete survey data here:



Bethany Bray is a staff writer for Counseling Today. Contact her at

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