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Prevalence of Mental Problems

Depression, anxiety and bipolar disorder came out of the closet, if gingerly, and the generation that came of age during this time — people now in their 40s, give or take — did so in a culture that no longer automatically presumed that depression was a character flaw.

The condition had some biological basis, it was felt, and antidepressants became a vastly popular option. Everyone knew someone taking them. Long-term prescription rates surged.
- BENEDICT CAREY, Antidepressants and Withdrawal: Readers Tell Their Stories, NYT, APRIL 17, 2018


It seems that Americans are in the midst of a raging epidemic of mental illness, at least as judged by the increase in the numbers treated for it. The tally of those who are so disabled by mental disorders that they qualify for Supplemental Security Income (SSI) or Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) increased nearly two and a half times between 1987 and 2007—from one in 184 Americans to one in seventy-six. For children, the rise is even more startling—a thirty-five-fold increase in the same two decades. Mental illness is now the leading cause of disability in children, well ahead of physical disabilities like cerebral palsy or Down syndrome, for which the federal programs were created.
- Marcia Angell, The Epidemic of Mental Illness: Why?, New York Review of Books, JUNE 23, 2011


The American Psychiatric Association reported that from 2016 to 2017, the number of adults who described themselves as more anxious than the previous year rose 36 percent. In 2017, more than 17 million American adults had a new diagnosis of a major depressive disorder, as well as three million adolescents ages 12 to 17. Forty million adults now suffer from an anxiety disorder — nearly 20 percent of the adult population. (These are the known cases of depression and anxiety. The actual numbers must be dumbfounding.)

The really sorrowful reports concern suicide. Among all Americans, the suicide rate increased by 33 percent between 1999 and 2017.
- Lee Siegel, Why Is America So Depressed?, NYT, Jan. 2, 2020



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