Untreated Mental Health Disorders Result in Exorbitant Costs for Individuals, Businesses

Mental Illness Awareness Week Is October 6-12, 2019

While one in five adults and one in six youth aged 6 to 17 experience a mental health disorder each year, less than half receive treatment, based on the National Institute of Mental Health's estimate of 43 percent of Americans needing mental health care who actually received it in 2016. Lack of treatment exacerbates mental illnesses and negatively impacts relationships and productivity. It also increases risk of suicide, which is the second leading cause of death among people aged 10 to 34 in the U.S. and the 10th leading cause of death among all age groups nationwide. Untreated mental illnesses also result in substantial costs for businesses - as much as $60,000 annually for one organization and $105 billion each year nationwide, according to the Center for Prevention and Health Services.

"Stigma is the most common reason why many individuals do not seek diagnoses or treatment when they experience symptoms of mental illnesses. Education is essential to eliminate stigma or, in the case of youth, potentially prevent it from developing. It enables people to recognize the signs and symptoms of mental illness, as well as encourage everyone to seek help when needed," said Debra L. Wentz, PhD, President and CEO of the New Jersey Association of Mental Health and Addiction Agencies, Inc.

Mental health disorders, especially when they are not treated, are also associated with significant risk of developing cardiovascular and metabolic diseases. Without continued treatment after hospitalizations for mental health reasons, individuals are likely to be rehospitalized within 30 days of discharge. Untreated mental illnesses also commonly interfere with individuals' performance in work and at school. In fact, the Center for Prevention and Health Services estimates that presenteeism - coming to work despite illness, which often results in reduced productivity - accounts for 32 lost work days each year or 12 percent of time for employees with depression.

"On the bright side, costs associated with lost productivity can be cut in half when employers offer and promote mental health care," Dr. Wentz said. "Offering mental health treatment also helps reduce risk of substance use, which is especially critical as the rate of opioid and other substance use continues to increase."

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