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Understanding New York City’s Mental Health Challenge

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While statistics alone cannot capture the devastating human costs of mental illness, they drive home the scope of the mental health crisis facing New York City:

  • At least one in five adult New Yorkers is likely to experience a mental health disorder in any given year.

  • 8% of NYC public high school students report attempting suicide.

  • Consequences of substance misuse are among the leading causes of premature death in every neighborhood in New York City. Each year, 1,800 deaths and upwards of 70,000 emergency room visits among adults aged 18 to 64 can be attributed to alcohol use.

  • 73,000 New York City public high school students report feeling sad or hopeless each month.

  • Approximately 8% of adult New Yorkers experience symptoms of depression each year.

  • Major depressive disorder is the single greatest source of disability in NYC. At any given time over half a million adult New Yorkers are estimated to have depression, yet less than 40% report receiving care for it.

  • There are $14 billion in estimated annual productivity losses in New York City tied to depression and substance misuse.

  • Unintentional drug overdose deaths outnumber both homicide and motor vehicle fatalities.

  • The stigma of mental illness has been found to have serious negative effects on hope and an individual’s sense of self-esteem. Stigma also increases the severity of psychiatric symptoms and decreases treatment adherence.
Economic Losses from Mental Health and Substance Use Factors
Disability Adjusted Life-Years

We need more information to be effective

There remain many questions about where and how mental health threats take root, how to better match what we are doing with where we can make the biggest impact, and the comparative value and quality of treatment and intervention options.

And we especially need to better measure mental health itself through adopting new measures and tools. In order to effectively tailor both our treatment and prevention efforts, we must have a thorough and data-based understanding of how mental illness, substance misuse, and threats to mental health manifest. To move forward and address mental health priorities we should also rethink traditional methods for gathering information about mental health.

Some countries are beginning to measure “well-being” and the position attributes of mental health. Similarly, it would be useful to capture not just neighborhood effects that pose threats to mental health, but also positive attributes that contribute to the resiliency of individuals and communities. Better data about both mental health and mental illness will help us make better decisions and smarter choices.

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