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2001 National Household  Survey on Drug Abuse

8. Prevalence and Treatment of Mental Health Problems

This chapter presents national estimates of the prevalence and characteristics of persons with serious mental illness (SMI) and of persons who received treatment for mental health problems. The 2001 National Household Survey on Drug Abuse (NHSDA) included a new series of questions designed to assess SMI among adults aged 18 or older. Since 2000, the NHSDA has included questions on mental health treatment and counseling. Separate questions are asked for adults and for youths aged 12 to 17, and different definitions are applied. Both the youth and the adult questions specifically exclude treatment for problems with substance use, which is covered elsewhere in the interview. Because the survey represents the civilian, noninstitutionalized population, persons who reside in long-term psychiatric or other institutions at the time of interview are excluded from the sample and from the estimates presented in this chapter.


8.1 Serious Mental Illness

This section presents national estimates of the prevalence and characteristics of adults who had SMI in 2001. SMI is defined for this report as having at some time during the past year a diagnosable mental, behavioral, or emotional disorder that met the criteria specified in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 4th edition (DSM-IV) (American Psychiatric Association [APA], 1994) and resulted in functional impairment that substantially interfered with or limited one or more major life activities. A scale consisting of six NHSDA questions is used to measure SMI. These questions ask how frequently a respondent experienced symptoms of psychological distress during the 1 month in the past year when he or she was at his or her worst emotionally. Use of this scale to estimate SMI is supported by methodological research that determined the scale to be a good predictor of SMI, based on clinical assessments done on survey respondents (Kessler et al., in press). The six questions and more discussion of this scale are given in Section B.5 of Appendix B in Volume II.


Prevalence of Serious Mental Illness



Serious Mental Illness and Substance Use



Co-Occurrence of Serious Mental Illness with Substance Dependence/Abuse


8.2 Mental Health Treatment among Adults

This section presents national estimates of the prevalence and characteristics of adults aged 18 or older who received mental health treatment in 2001. Estimates are presented for the total adult population and separately for the adult population with SMI. Treatment is defined as the receipt of treatment or counseling for any problem with emotions, "nerves," or mental health in the 12 months prior to the interview in any inpatient or outpatient setting, or the use of prescription medication for treatment of a mental or emotional condition. Treatment for only a substance abuse problem is not included.


Treatment among Adults with Serious Mental Illness


8.3 Mental Health Treatment among Youths

This section presents national estimates of the receipt of mental health treatment or counseling among youths aged 12 to 17. Data on reasons for treatment on last visit and sources or locations of past year treatment also are discussed. Mental health treatment for youths is defined as receiving treatment or counseling for problems with behaviors or emotions from specific mental health or other health professionals in school, home, outpatient, or inpatient settings within the 12 months prior to the interview. Treatment for only a substance abuse problem is not included.

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This page was last updated on June 03, 2008.