State of Mind: America 2002

Feb 01 2002

Coping With Economic Downturn

  • The national unemployment rate stood at 5.8 percent in December 2001. In some communities that rate is much higher. For example, the unemployment rate for African-Americans was 10.2 percent.
  • Ford Motor Company is cutting 35,000 jobs and closing plants in five communities around the nation. The collapse of Enron has cost the Houston area 4000 jobs and an important source of support for local arts and charity organizations. How can people and organizations cope with the psychological stress brought on by financial changes?
  • More than a million non-farm jobs were lost in the last four months of 2001. 8.3 million people were unemployed as of December.

Mental Health And Terrorism

  • On December 12, 2001 the Senate passed legislation authorizing a number of grant programs to respond to certain mental health needs relating to terrorism. The Post Terrorism Mental Health Improvement Act authorizes:
  • grants to states, localities, and public or private nonprofit entities for training mental health professionals regarding evidence-based treatment for victims of disasters;
  • funding for the development of coordinated response plans for addressing the mental health needs that arise from a disaster (including the response efforts of private organizations);
  • a grant program (to address the long-term mental health needs of those areas directly affected by the attacks of September 11th) to provide outreach and needed treatment for individuals suffering from "serious psychiatric illness."
  • We need public discussion in our communities about how best to use these grant monies; about who has the greatest mental health needs right now and about how, together, we can meet those needs.

How Are We Doing?

  • Thirteen states and four cities have experienced an increased demand for alcohol and drug treatment since September 11th, according to a telephone survey of the individuals who oversee offices of substance abuse services in the states, the District of Columbia and the 10 largest U.S. cities
  • According to Dr. Vivian Boyd of the International Association of Counseling Services, there has been a marked increase in traffic at university counseling centers. She estimates a 17-22% increase across the country, with a greater increase in centers closer to New York City.

Access And Parity

  • Every year in the U.S. 113 billion dollars in productivity is lost due to untreated mental illness. Despite the support of a majority of Members of Congress in both the Senate and House of Representatives, a small group of House leaders in December 2001 killed legislation to provide more equitable coverage for mental illnesses in health insurance plans. In doing so, they also denied the American people the same protection that Members of Congress and other federal workers currently have.
  • According to the Rand Corporation, "spending less than $500 over a two year period to help treat depression in a primary care setting would save business $3,836 during that time."
  • Services for mental health can reduce crime. Untreated illness can lead to violence and incarceration. By helping the mentally ill, these risks are curbed and the savings to our communities far surpass any increase in spending.
  • Parity is affordable--according to the Congressional Budget Office, the proposed parity legislation would raise insurance rates less than one percent.
  • The current lack of equal health coverage breeds discrimination against people with mental illness.
  • A mental illness such as depression has a treatment success rate of 80 percent, significantly higher than that of heart disease.


  • The National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) estimates that between three and five percent of all children in the U.S. suffer from an attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. That means that on average every classroom in the United States has at least one child suffering from ADHD.
  • The U.S. has a severe shortage of child and adolescent psychiatrists. In the 1980s, the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, noting the ongoing increase in mental illnesses and disorders among children and the then-existing shortage of child psychiatrists, estimated that by the year 2000 the U.S. would need about 30,000 child psychiatrists. Right now, there are about 8,000 child psychiatrists nationwide.
  • Children and adolescents can and do have severe and persistent mental illnesses. In the United States, one in 10 children and adolescents suffers from mental illness severe enough to cause impairment. But in any given year, fewer than one in five of these children receive needed treatment.
  • A 1999 report by the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill (NAMI) Families on the Brink, sets forth how this lack of care may result in lasting harm to the affected children and their families and broad dissatisfaction with treatment options and capacity. "The overall picture is one of major barriers to care with devastating results for the children and the families…In more than half the families, 55 percent, one of the parents had to change jobs or quit to take care of their ailing offspring. Fifty-nine percent said they felt like they were pushed to the breaking point."