14 States Struggling With Mental Illness

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14. Utah
> Pct. of adults w/ serious mental illness: 4.5%
> Total adults w/ serious mental illness: 93,000 (18th fewest)
> Pct. adults abusing alcohol or illicit drugs: 7.8% (3rd lowest)
> Median household income: $62,912 (13th highest)

About one in every five adults in Utah suffers from some form of mental illness, and nearly one in 20 endure a more severe illness — such as bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, or chronic depression — that seriously impairs their ability to live normal lives.

Serious mental illness can have a debilitating impact on the lives of those it affects, it also increases the risk of patients ending their own lives. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, about 90% of those who commit suicide have experienced mental illness at some point. In Utah, 5.1% of state adults have seriously contemplated suicide in the past year, the highest share of any state.

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13. North Carolina
> Pct. of adults w/ serious mental illness: 4.5%
> Total adults w/ serious mental illness: 350,000 (7th most)
> Pct. adults abusing alcohol or illicit drugs: 8.7% (20th lowest)
> Median household income: $47,830 (10th lowest)

Numerous factors can lead to mental illness, including personal, financial, and environmental causes. While some people have a genetic history for certain conditions, environmental factors, such as stress and loss, can contribute to depression, severe anxiety, and eating disorders. Financial stress, particularly severe debt, has been shown to lead to mental illness and suicide.

The typical household in North Carolina earns about $8,000 less than the typical household nationwide. The state also has one of the higher poverty rates in the country. North Carolina has slowly reduced provisions and funding for mental health over the years. The number of state psychiatric hospital beds has declined by more than 90% since 1955. It is one of just a few states to reduce its budget for mental health each year from 2013 through 2015.

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12. Alabama
> Pct. of adults w/ serious mental illness: 4.5%
> Total adults w/ serious mental illness: 170,000 (22nd most)
> Pct. adults abusing alcohol or illicit drugs: 7.9% (4th lowest)
> Median household income: $44,765 (4th lowest)

While the causes of mental illness are varied and complicated, stress can certainly lead to depression and other serious conditions. Those living with low incomes and in poverty are subject to many kinds of stress, including that of living paycheck-to-paycheck, or potentially living in serious debt. In Alabama, 18.5% of residents live in poverty, the fifth highest rate in the country. And the typical household’s annual income is about $11,000 below the national median household income.

Alabama has the fourth highest prescription drug use rate in the country. For each resident, some 17 prescriptions are filled annually.

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11. Missouri
> Pct. of adults w/ serious mental illness: 4.6%
> Total adults w/ serious mental illness: 214,000 (17th most)
> Pct. adults abusing alcohol or illicit drugs: 8.5% (18th lowest)
> Median household income: $50,238 (15th lowest)

The rate of serious mental illness among adults in Missouri is one of the highest of any state, but it is an outlier compared to most states on this list. When including less serious conditions such as attention deficit disorder, seasonal affective disorder, and many social phobia, the rate of mental illness is roughly in line with the national share. The state is similarly average in the share of adults who have had suicidal thoughts and of those who have had a major depressive episode, each of which tends to correlate with the share of adults with serious mental illness.

One thing potentially leading to higher incidence of mental illness in Missouri is the presence of serious, chronic illnesses, which can lead to depression and other psychological conditions. The state has one of the 10 highest shares of adults with obesity, as well as the 10th highest rate of cancer deaths.

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10. Oregon
> Pct. of adults w/ serious mental illness: 4.6%
> Total adults w/ serious mental illness: 147,000 (25th fewest)
> Pct. adults abusing alcohol or illicit drugs: 9.8% (8th highest)
> Median household income: $54,148 (25th lowest)

About 21% of adults in Oregon have some kind of mental illness, the second highest share of any state. About one in five of these are serious, debilitating illnesses such as schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and severe depression.

Substance abuse often coincides with mental illness for a number of reasons. People living with a condition such as depression, anxiety, or schizophrenia are more likely to self-medicate. Drugs and alcohol can also increase the risk of developing a mental illness, and substance abuse can exacerbate the symptoms of existing conditions. In Oregon, around one in 10 adults abuse or are dependent on illicit drugs or alcohol, one of the higher rates in the country. Also, the share of residents who need but do not receive treatment for illicit drug use is one of the highest.