Stigma can be a major barrier for people with mental illness to seek the help they need, but a new survey suggests that perceptions may be changing.
A new national online survey on mental health, anxiety and suicide revealed that 89 percent of Americans valued their mental health as much as their physical health, highlighting just how much awareness of mental health issues has grown in recent years.
The survey of 2,020 US adults was commissioned by the Anxiety and Depression Associations of America (ADAA), the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP) and the National Action Alliance for Suicide Prevention (NAASP).
"Progress is being made in how American adults view mental health, and the important role it plays in our everyday lives," AFSP Chief Medical Officer Christine Moutier, MD, told CNN. "People see a connection between mental health and overall well-being, our ability to function at work and at home and how we view the world around us."
Despite an overwhelming interest in preserving mental health, however, only 12 percent of participants said they had seen a mental health professional in the last year.
About 65 percent had seen a primary care physician in the last year. This may suggest a gap in the use of mental health resources.
The survey also found potentially important demographic differences, including that men were less likely than women to report anxiety or depression — but more likely to report drug abuse.
"The findings provide key insights into how Americans view mental health conditions, life circumstances, barriers for seeking help and their understanding of the risk factors for suicide," NAASP Executive Secretary Doryn Chervin, DrPH, told CNN.
Young adults also seem to be becoming more comfortable with seeking medical help for mental illness. They may also be more likely to consider it a sign of strength, compared to older adults.
"It's a great step forward to see a public increase in awareness on mental health issues, but there are still limitations when it comes to gaining access to care," Ranna Parekh, PhD, director of the Division of Diversity and Health Equity at the American Psychiatric Association, told CNN. "There needs to be an increase in the number of trained mental health professionals, proper facilities and first-response support across the nation in order to treat all the patients who need the special care."
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that 25 percent of all US adults have some kind of mental illness.