Things to know

  • Mental illness is treatable.
  • People who receive proper treatment for mental illness can recover, that is, live a satisfying, hopeful, and contributing life despite any losses or limitations caused by the illness.
  • Stigma and mistaken beliefs about mental illness are often significant barriers to treatment.
  • Millions of people in the U.S. who may benefit from treatment for mental illness do not get that treatment.
  • Of the 13 million+ adults in the U.S. who are living with a mental illness, very few–almost NONE–will ever shoot up a theatre, school, church, or do anything violent in their lifetimes.
  • Nationwide, the majority of people who get medication-assisted mental health treatment get that treatment from their primary care providers, not from mental health professionals.
  • Most mental health services require appointments that are set days, weeks, or months in advance. Many people with mental illnesses do not recognize their need for treatment days, weeks, or months in advance of a crisis.Zero Suicide Project
  • Many—perhaps most—deaths by suicide are preventable.
  • Many mental health treatment providers, substance use treatment providers, and primary care medical providers have no training in suicide prevention.
  • Many healthcare organizations do not have procedures or protocols designed to prevent death by suicide.
  • More people with mental illness are in county jails than in treatment.
  • All law enforcement agencies have frequent encounters with people with mental illness; most have repeated “crisis” contacts with well-known untreated or inadequately-treated individuals.
  • Members of the public, including public employees at government offices, frequently encounter people with mental illness. Unfortunately, many people behave in provocative, discriminatory, or ineffective ways toward people with mental illness.
  • Many small business owners or managers are unprepared to interact effectively with their employees or customers who have mental illness.
  • Staff of public libraries and other open facilities frequently have less-than-positive interactions with people who have mental illness.
  • People with mental illness often are considered excessive users (“frequent flyers,” or “GOMERs”) of hospital emergency department services. Consequently, those services may be delivered in a demeaning or disrespectful manner.
  • College faculty and security personnel are frequently required to make determinations of campus safety risk involving people with untreated mental illness, with minimal or no involvement of mental health professionals.
  • Public and private school faculty are frequently required to make determinations of school safety risk involving children with untreated mental illness, with minimal or no involvement of mental health professionals.
  • Many people who live outdoors or in homeless shelters have untreated mental illness. Untreated mental illness may be a barrier to maintaining a stable residence. For most people, living outdoors makes a mental illness worse.
  • People with mental illness are often vulnerable to exploitation or assault, and may be more vulnerable to certain physical/medical illness. Mental illness is often a barrier to physical/medical healthcare.
  • As a group, people with mental illness have a significantly shorter expected life span than the neurotypical population.
  • In most U.S. communities, treatment for mental illness is separate from treatment for drug use, and both of those treatment “systems” are usually separate from the physical/medical healthcare “system.”
  • Many people who have drug use disorders began misusing drugs to cope with untreated mental illness; many people with untreated mental illness also misuse licit and illicit drugs.