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Poll: Most Americans Don’t Believe Mental Health Is a Priority of U.S. Leaders

May 15, 2016

ATLANTA - A majority of Americans view mental health as important to the well-being of the country and individuals, but don’t believe it is a priority of most U.S. policymakers, according to a new national poll.

Eighteen percent of the survey’s respondents gave a failing grade to the country’s mental health care system, and 45% said they didn’t know or aren’t sure how to access mental health care services.

The survey of 1,025 adults was conducted in April and released by the American Psychiatric Association on Sunday at its 2016 Annual Meeting.

Nearly two-thirds of those surveyed said untreated mental illness has a significant negative impact on the U.S. economy, and more than three-quarters believe reforming the mental health system would effectively address societal ills such as homelessness, substance abuse, suicide, and gun violence. Ninety-four percent said mental health is as important or more important than physical health.

But 20% believe mental health is not a priority for Congress, and another 52% think it is “somewhat less of a priority.” Only 5% said it is a top priority for policymakers.

“We applaud the lawmakers in Congress who recognize the dire need to improve our nation’s mental health system,” said APA President Renée Binder, MD. “But we call upon Congress as a whole to embrace this issue. Our poll findings show that the majority of Americans want to see improved mental health care and access.”

Eighty percent agree that a person’s mental health impacts their physical health, and just 15% think the mental health needs of military veterans are being met.

Nearly half of respondents, 45%, believe there is less stigma against people with mental illness than there was a decade ago. But 31% somewhat or strongly agreed they would not vote for a political candidate who has been diagnosed with a mental illness, even if the candidate had been treated for it.

Regarding the current presidential candidates, the highest number of survey respondents, 21%, said Democratic frontrunner Hillary Clinton would best meet the country’s mental health care needs. Nineteen percent chose Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders and 10% picked GOP frontrunner Donald Trump. Twenty-eight percent did not know or were not sure.

–Terri Airov

References

“Majority of Americans says untreated mental health has a significant impact on U.S. economy, yet Americans see few solutions from Congress or presidential candidates [press release].” Arlington, VA: American Psychiatric Association; May 16, 2016.

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