The Best & Worst States For Mental Health Issues Might Make A Case For Your Next Move

Recently Mental Health America, a nonprofit that works to further mental healthcare and awareness, released its latest State of Mental Health in America report. The study reveals the best and worst states for mental health issues in the United States. Connecticut earned the top spot for mental health care and access, and Nevada earned the dubious honor of worst state for people with mental health problems in the country. Although the findings on a state-by-state level are troubling, what is most disturbing about the report is what it says about the state of mental health care across the nation as a whole: In short, it’s terrible.

To rank each state, Mental Health America used data from between 2011 and 2014 to analyze 15 different factors that together reflect how many adults and children suffer from mental illness in a given state, and how much access those people have to mental health services. A good ranking means that a state has relatively low numbers of residents with mental illness and high access to care, while a bad one represents a state with a relatively high incidence of mental illness and low access to mental health services.

Connecticut came in with the best score, ranking first in the nation for mental health. About half of the state’s residents with mental illness receive care, and the state has one mental health care worker (a group including “psychiatrists, psychologists, social workers, counselors, and psychiatric nurses”) for every 300 patients. If those number don’t sound great, just look at the numbers for Nevada, the worst state for mental illness: 67.5 percent of residents with mental illness fail to get treatment, and there’s one mental health worker for every 570 patients.

Here are the top 10 states for mental health issues in the country:

  1. Connecticut
  2. Massachusetts
  3. Vermont
  4. South Dakota
  5. Minnesota
  6. New Jersey
  7. Iowa
  8. North Dakota
  9. Pennsylvania
  10. Maine

And these are the 10 with the lowest scores for mental health:

  1. Nevada
  2. Arizona
  3. Oregon
  4. Idaho
  5. Arkansas
  6. Alabama
  7. Indiana
  8. Mississippi
  9. West Virginia
  10. Louisiana

The mental health and mental health services may vary from state to state, but the report shows that, across the board, too many Americans lack the mental health resources they need. One in five U.S. adults — more then 40 million people — has a mental health disorder. Of those people, 56.5 percent don’t receive mental health treatment. That’s 24.6 million American adults who are not receiving the mental health support they need.

The stats for youth aged between 12 and 17 years aren’t any better. The prevalence of depression among young people is rising: In 2011, 8.5 percent of American youth experienced a major depressive episode — by 2014, that number was up to 11.1 percent. Sadly, of the more than 2.7 million kids and teenagers suffering from major depression, 64.1 percent don’t receive mental health treatment of any kind.

In a press statement, Paul Gionfriddo, president and CEO of Mental Health America, said that the state rankings don’t reflect a clear political divide, though politics do make a difference. “It isn’t just about what states are red and what states are blue because there are some of each near the top and the bottom,” Gionfriddo explained. “But political environments in states do seem to matter. Those that invest more in mental health clearly have to throw away less money on jails and prisons.” And, indeed, there does seem to be a connection between access to mental health care and prison rates. Three states lacking in access to mental health services — Arkansas, Mississippi, and Alabama (a state where there is only one mental health worker for a staggering 1,200 patients) — also have the highest prison rates. Together, these states house more than 57,000 prisoners with mental health disorders.

“Once again, our report shows that too many Americans are suffering, and far too many are not receiving the treatment they need to live healthy and productive lives,” Gionfriddo said. “Mental illness touches everyone. We must improve access to care and treatments, and we need to put a premium on early identification and early intervention for everyone with mental health concerns.”

To see the full study, check out the State of Mental Health in America report.

Images: Joseph Young/Unsplash