Mental illness: Surprising, disturbing findings

But research has focused on adults. Much more research on the adolescent brain is needed, and large treatment studies not financed by drug companies must be done, says Thomas Insel, director of the National Institute of Mental Health, which paid for the survey.

But there’s a shortage of researchers focusing on treating children, “and most are working full time on drug-company-funded studies,” Insel says.

That only a third of adults get effective care “is pretty disturbing,” Insel says. “We’ve got to figure out how to do this better. If I told you only a third of breast-cancer patients were getting adequate care, you’d wonder, how could that be?”

Patients got the most effective care from mental health experts, such as psychologists and psychiatrists, the survey shows. Yet even specialists gave adequate care to just under half of their patients. And 52% saw medical doctors for treatment of mental disorders, with 13% receiving adequate care.

So one take-away from this survey is:

See a mental health professional for an issue, you’re 3 times more likely to receive adequate care than if you just saw your GP or medical doctor.

Stuff like only a third of people who have a mental health issue seek out treatment for it is not news. This is the exact same finding that came out 6 years ago in the Surgeon General’s Report on mental health (see

Really folks, we spend millions researching things like prevalence rates to try and get the message out that if you’re sick, you should seek treatment. We hear you. Now it’s time to divert some of those millions to increasing treatment options and opportunities, re-fund the community mental health center system envisioned by John F. Kennedy in the 1960’s, and help people get the treatment that all of these studies keep showing that people need (but don’t get).