New Data Highlights Staggering Depression Statistics Among Youth, Adults

By Paul Gaita 10/05/16

Nearly 1,400 people use the MHA screens for depression on a daily basis.

New Data Highlights Staggering Depression Statistics Among Youth, Adults

Since 2014, the non-profit organization Mental Health America (MHA) has been offering anonymous mental health screening tools to more than 1.7 million Americans. The nine screens offer perspective on nine different conditions and/or demographics including anxiety, depression and alcohol or substance abuse for parents or young people.

As part of Mental Illness Awareness Week (Oct. 2-8) and National Depression Screening Day on Thursday, Oct. 6, MHA is sharing data culled from the screens related to depression in America, and the results show that the disease affects a vast number of adults and young people alike. The statistics shared by MHA reveal that:

  • Nearly 1,400 people use the MHA screens for depression on a daily basis
  • Of that group, 66% of screeners are under the age of 25, while 32% are less than 18 years of age
  • 59% of those individuals qualify as seriously depressed
  • 37% of those between the ages of 11 and 17 qualify as severely depressed
  • 32% of all screeners report that they have frequent or significant thoughts of suicide or self-harm
  • 41% of screeners who self-identify as both youth and LGBT qualify as severely depressed

Depression is defined by the National Institute of Mental Health as a common but serious mood disorder causing severe symptoms that affect a person’s mental and physical well-being. Symptoms including a persistent sad or “empty” mood, feelings of hopelessness or irritability, decreased energy, restlessness, difficulty with sleeping and concentrating, and thoughts of death or suicide that last for more than two weeks are considered signs of depression.

“The sheer volume of individuals seeking mental health screening and supports is astonishing,” said MHA president and CEO Paul Gionfriddo in a statement. “But when you couple this volume with these facts—that the depression screening tool is the most common screening tool they use; that most depression screeners are young; that two in every five depression screeners have severe depression; and that the majority of people coming to our screening program have never been diagnosed with a mental health condition—this is a national wake-up call. We must demand better mental health services—practitioners, employers, and educators need to offer mental health screening to all children and adults and policy makers must pass meaningful mental health reform legislation that emphasizes earlier detection and integrated services for recovery."

Individuals who complete their MHA screenings are provided with immediate assistance in the form of resources and links to MHA affiliates. The organization is also planning to launch a new initiative called “Screening-to-Supports” (S2S) which will grant referrals to services and support for screeners, as well as self-help tools to aid in monitoring mental health concerns and connection with others who may be experiencing similar issues. The initiative is expected to begin in 2017. 

“This is what 1.7 million screeners have asked from us,” said Gionfriddo. “They want help, and we want to respond. This officially may be Mental Illness Awareness Week, but for us and for so many Americans, every day is Mental Health Day.  We need to address mental illness in this country Before Stage 4."

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Paul Gaita lives in Los Angeles. He has contributed to the Los Angeles Times, Variety, LA Weekly, and The Los Angeles Beat, among many other publications and websites.