Facing Mental Illness: Infographic And Facts

Posted on May 2, 2012 by


No one ever told me I was a woman of few words. Not once.

But every once in a while, some number faces me, representing a fact so powerful that it overwhelms my verbiage.

It was Pythagoras who said “The world is built upon the power of numbers,” and he had a few other pretty good innovations, what with figuring out what happened when you squared sides of triangles (I mean, honestly, who thinks of these things?).

The power of these numbers, I hope, is to open minds–and hearts–to the tremendous suffering of the mentally ill, more common than people might have guessed, and more disheartening, if we all don’t choose to do something about it.

***And I add this on later, in May of 2013, to in fact provide a link to the original post, as asked so rightly–and politely–by Gabriela.  Apparently the original “Facing Mental Illness” infographic was put out by the USC School of Social work, and can be found right here.

And the numbers lay me low as I look at them again, a year later. And I must ask: Are we doing all we can for the mentally ill? Is this really the best we can do?

For the numbers are truly, truly staggering.

Beyond what NAMI so helpfully provides in the graphic, sources estimate that:

  • Suicide is the eleventh-leading cause of death in the Unites States, and greater than 90% of those who suicide have a mental disorder. (National Institute of Mental Health. Suicide in the U.S.: Statistics and prevention.)

  • 1 in 5 Americans takes a psychiatric medication.

  • An estimated 40 million American adults suffer from anxiety disorders. These are actually highly treatable–but only about 1/3 of sufferers actually receives treatment.  ["American's State of Mind" (a report by Medco)]

  • 14.8% of Americans meet the criteria for at least one personality disorder. (National Epidemiologic Survey on Alcohol and Related Conditions (NESARC)) [Of course, this is before the proposed changes for the DSM5 go into effect in May, 2013.  Then the numbers will have to be re-assessed.]

  • Between 2 percent  and 5 percent of Americans engage in binge eating (2001 NIMH report)

  •  One in 200 American women suffers from anorexia (South Carolina Department of Mental Health Eating Disorder Statistics)

  • Between 5 percent and 15 percent of people with anorexia or bulimia and about 35  percent of those with binge-eating disorder are male (NIMH)

  • Between 25-40% of bipolar people also suffer from migraines.

  • In 2007, at least 200,000 of an estimate 600,000  homeless people in American either had schizophrenia or bipolar disorder. “These 200,000 individuals comprise more than the entire population of many U.S. cities, such as Hartford, Connecticut; Charleston, South Carolina; Reno, Nevada; Boise, Idaho; Scottsdale, Arizona; Orlando, Florida; Winston Salem, North Carolina; Ann Arbor, Michigan; Abilene, Texas or Topeka, Kansas.” (“Schizophrenia and Poverty, Crime and Violence“)

  • Up to as many as one in five of the 2.1 million Americans in jail are seriously mentally ill (and would be better rehabilitated in a psychiatric institution). (Human Rights Watch )

  • Adults with serious mental illnesses die on average 25 years earlier than other Americans. (Manderscheid, R., Druss, B., & Freeman, E . (2007, August 15). Data to manage the mortality crisis: Recommendations to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration)

  • It is believed that somewhere between 2 to 8 million Americans inflict self-injury upon themselves. (Favazza, DeRosear, & Conterio, 1989)

  • A 12-year long study of twins found that depression doubled the risk of developing heart disease.

  • People over sixty-five are four times more likely to suffer depression than the rest of the population. (“How to heal depression“)

  • Of the top 10 leading causes of disability world-wide, the leading cause is depression. Bipolar ranks as 6th, with schizophrenia clocking in at 9th place. (Murray, CJL, Lopez, AD eds. The Global Burden of Disease. Geneva and Boston: World Health Organization and Harvard UP, 1996)

  • Little is different if we look at America on its own. Major depressive disorder is the leading cause of disability in the U.S. for ages 15-44. (World Health Organization, 2004)

  • It is estimated that 50% of people with bipolar disorder and schizophrenia don’t believe they are ill and resist seeking help. (I am Not Sick I Don’t Need Help! by Xavier Amado)

  • Just as one current example, the state of Alabama plans to shut down most of its psychiatric hospitals by the spring of 2013 in a radical plan to save money and change how treatment is delivered. (“Alabama Plans to Close Most Hospitals for Mentally Ill“)


So here was a piece where, I hope, numbers spoke more loudly than words could have.

But, of course, there’s something else that overpowers words any day.

If you’ve heard it once, you’ve heard it 1000 times, it’s those actions, right? They’re what speak louder than words, too.

So it’s not enough to read an infographic, and take in the statistics about the tremendous suffering of the mentally ill. We have to do something about it.

It can be as small as a grain of sand, as they say, or as wide as the ocean. It can be speaking at your children’s school about depression. It can be volunteering at a local clinic for mentally ill children. It can be dedicating time to work with NAMI, the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill. It can be posting on the topic, making it more accessible.

Or perhaps, as important as contribution, it can be finally getting the help you need.