News & Events

Nearly one in five American adults experience mental illness annually

Mental illness affects 43.7 million adults in the United States each year, according to a newly released report from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), part of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). That figure represents 18.39 percent of the U.S. population over the age of 18.

The data, collected through the National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) from 2012 to 2014, show that Oregon had the highest rate of adults who had experienced any mental illness (AMI) in the past year – 22.72 percent. Following Oregon were Utah (21.72 percent), West Virginia (21.7 percent), Maine (21.3 percent), and Rhode Island (21.11 percent).

States with lower rates included New Jersey (15.83 percent), Illinois (16.36 percent), and North Dakota (16.45 percent). The rate for both Florida and South Dakota was 16.46 percent.

“The figures in SAMHSA’s report remind us how important it is to take mental health as seriously as any other health condition,” said SAMHSA Acting Deputy Assistant Secretary Kana Enomoto.

The report also compares the combined 2012–2014 state estimates of past year AMI with 2010–2012 estimates of AMI to examine changes over time. Four states experienced an increase: California, Maine, North Carolina, and Rhode Island. The remaining states saw no change.

In addition to providing state-level data, the report provides estimates for substate regions. Estimates ranged from 23.95 percent in Oregon’s Region 3, located in the northwestern part of the state, to 14.53 percent in Florida’s Southern region.

The report, State and Substate Estimates of Any Mental Illness from the 2012–2014 National Surveys on Drug Use and Health, is available at NSDUH is an annual survey of the U.S. civilian, noninstitutionalized population age 12 years or older.

Mental Illness Is Far More Common Than We Knew

From Scientific American:

Most of us know at least one person who has struggled with a bout of debilitating mental illness. Despite their familiarity, however, these kinds of episodes are typically considered unusual, and even shameful.

New ew research, from our lab and from others around the world, however, suggests mental illnesses are so common that almost everyone will develop at least one diagnosable mental disorder at some point in their lives. Most of these people will never receive treatment, and their relationships, job performance and life satisfaction will likely suffer. Meanwhile the few individuals who never seem to develop a disorder may offer psychology a new avenue of study, allowing researchers to ask what it takes to be abnormally, enduringly, mentally well.

Epidemiologists have long known that, at any given point in time, roughly 20 to 25 percent of the population suffers from a mental illness, which means they experience psychological distress severe enough to impair functioning at work, school or in their relationships. Extensive national surveys, conducted from the mid-1990s through the early 2000s, suggested that a much higher percentage, close to half the population, would experience a mental illness at some point in their lives.

These surveys were large, involving thousands of participants representative of the U.S. in age, sex, social class and ethnicity. They were also, however, retrospective, which means they relied on survey respondents’ accurate recollection of feelings and behaviors months, years and even decades in the past. Human memory is fallible, and modern science has demonstrated that people are notoriously inconsistent reporters about their own mental health history, leaving the final accuracy of these studies up for debate. Of further concern, up to a third of the people contacted by the national surveys failed to enroll in the studies. Follow-up tests suggested that these “nonresponders” tended to have worse mental health.

Our new study, published earlier this year in the Journal of Abnormal Psychology (whose very name suggests an outdated understanding of the prevalence of mental illness), took a different approach to estimating disease burden. Rather than ask people to think back many years in the past, we instead closely followed one generation of New Zealanders, all born in the same town, from birth to midlife. We conducted in-depth check-ins every few years to assess for evidence of mental illness occurring during the preceding year.

We found that if you follow people over time, and screen them regularly using simple, evidence-based tools, the percentage of people who develop a diagnosable mental illness at any point in their lives jumps to well over 80 percent. In our cohort only 17 percent of study members did not develop a disorder, at least briefly, by middle age. Because we can’t be certain these individuals remained disorder-free in the years between assessments, the true proportion that never experienced a mental illness may be even smaller.

Put another way, our study shows that you are more likely to experience a bout of mental illness than you are to develop diabetes, heart disease or any kind of cancer whatsoever—combined. These findings have been corroborated by data from other similar cohorts in New Zealand, Switzerland and the U.S.

If you ever develop a psychological disorder, many assume you will have it for life. The newest research suggests, for the most common psychological complaints, this is simply not true. “A substantial component of what we describe as disorder is often short-lived, of lesser severity or self-limiting,” says John Horwood, a psychiatric epidemiologist and director of the longitudinal Christchurch Health and Development Study in New Zealand. (Horwood has found that close to 85 percent of the Christchurch study members develop a diagnosable mental illness by midlife).

This may be a useful message to spread. According to Jason Siegel, a professor of social psychology at Claremont Graduate University, people tend to be more sympathetic and helpful when they believe that a friend or co-worker’s health problems are temporary.

And individuals with mental illness need support. Even short-lived or self-limiting disorders can wreak havoc on a person’s life. To be classified as having a disorder, “an individual typically has to meet fairly stringent symptom criteria,” Horwood says. “There needs to be substantial impairment of functioning.”

To some, though, the new statistics on mental illness rates can sound a lot like the overmedicalization of “normal” human experience. Advocates for individuals with mental health concerns tend to disagree with this perspective. “I’m not at all surprised by these findings,” commented Paul Gionfriddo, president of Mental Health America, a national advocacy group. His organization views mental illnesses as common, “though not always enduring.” Three years ago Mental Health America launched a Web-based tool to allow individuals to discreetly screen themselves for possible psychological disorders. Since then over two million people have used the tool, with over 3,000 people a day now logging on to determine if they may have a condition that could benefit from treatment.

The widespread nature of mental illness unearthed by careful longitudinal research holds some implications for the way we study and treat disease in this country. To Gionfriddo, a former lawmaker who watched his son end up homeless and incarcerated following undiagnosed childhood schizophrenia, “one implication of these new studies is that we as a society will get tremendous benefit out of ubiquitous mental health screening.”

Although the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force currently recommends mental health screening on a regular basis for everyone over age 11, such screening is still far from routine. “At a time when we have recognized the importance of early intervention for cancer or for diabetes or heart disease, why would we say, ‘Okay, for mental illness we aren’t going to screen or do early intervention’?” Gionfriddo says. “This should be as common for adults as blood pressure screening. Putting our head in the sand and waiting for a catastrophe is not a health care plan.”

Another implication stems from the fact that individuals who never develop a mental illness—those who experience what we call “enduring mental health”—are actually quite remarkable. These people may be the mental health equivalents of healthy centenarians: individuals who somehow manage to beat the odds and enjoy good health for much longer than we’d expect. It’s possible that studying the mentally robust more closely could provide insight into how we can help more people to enjoy lives like theirs.

Who are these extraordinary people? In our New Zealand cohort we found that those with enduring mental health tended to have two things going for them: First, they had little to no family history of mental illness and, second, they tended to have what we called “advantageous” personalities. As early as age five, individuals who would make it to midlife without an episode of mental disorder tended to display fewer negative emotions, get along better with their peers, and have greater self-control. Perhaps just as striking, we found that these individuals were not any richer, smarter or physically healthy than their peers, at least in childhood.

Ultimately, the most important suggestion from the newest research is that mental health concerns may be nearly universal. As a result, society should begin to view mental illnesses like bone breaks, kidney stones or common colds—as part of the normal wear and tear of life. Acknowledging this universality may allow us to finally devote adequate resources to screening, treating and preventing mental illnesses. It may also help us go easier on ourselves and our loved ones when we, inevitably, hit our own rough patches in the road.

Gov. Christie On Addiction: Life Moves, It’s Not Static, It’s Not Something You’re Stuck With

Governor Chris Christie today met with case managers and support staff at Homeless Solutions in Morris Township to discuss an innovative approach to increasing the number of skilled drug counselors in the state. The employees are currently participating in a 45-week, state-funded, on-site drug counseling certification program and company-paid apprenticeship. Watch the video:

This employee needed mental health days. This is how her CEO responded.

“I just wanted to personally thank you for sending e-mails like this,” he wrote. “Every time you do, I use it as a reminder of the importance of using sick days for mental health – I can’t believe this is not standard practice at all organizations. You are an example to us all, and help cut through the stigma so we can bring our whole selves to work.”

Madalyn Parker

Madalyn Parker says her CEO’s response was “refreshing.”

Courtesy of Madalyn Parker

When Madalyn Parker needed some time off to focus on her mental health, she wrote an e-mail to her co-workers letting them know.

“Hey team, I’m taking today and tomorrow to focus on my mental health. Hopefully I’ll be back next week refreshed and back to 100 [per cent],” she wrote in the message.

Two weeks ago, the Olark Live Chat software developer from Ann Arbor, Mich., posted that e-mail exchange with her CEO Ben Congleton on Twitter — an exchange that has now gone viral.

Rockaway Prevention Agency Awarded F.M. Kirby Grant

Morris County Prevention is Key logoThe staff and Board of Trustees of Morris County Prevention is Key (MCPIK) is pleased to announce that MCPIK is the proud recipient of a grant from the F.M. Kirby Foundation, Inc. in the amount of $20,000.  The grant is intended to support the overall operations of the agency in preventing and reducing the incidence of addiction across the lifespan in Morris County.

The F.M. Kirby Foundation, based in Morristown, NJ, each year recognizes a limited number of nonprofit organizations in health, educational, arts, youth programs, religious and other charitable organizations whose programs are reflective of important contemporary problems in our society. The Foundation favors programs encouraging people to solve their own problems without government aid.

Morris County Prevention is Key is a community focused non-profit organization providing prevention education programs, professional development training, advocacy, information and referral services that address multiple issues.  The county’s most extensive resource center has significantly expanded its capacity and reach through the further development of the Center for Addiction Recovery, Education and Success (CARES) which now includes a statewide Certified Peer Recovery Specialist credential training, Telephone Recovery Support and the provision of Naloxone Rescue Trainings throughout the northern tier of the state through the Opioid Overdose Prevention grant.

MCPIK and CARES are located at 25 West Main Street, Rockaway, NJ 07866 and can always use a helping hand. If you are interested in volunteer opportunities to help make a difference in your community contact 973-625-1998; send an email to or log onto their website or .

Why You Shouldn’t Use the Word “Addict”

“For a long time, we’ve known that language plays a huge role in how we think about people and how people think about themselves. Words have to change so attitudes change.”

Michael Botticelli, former director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy in The Boston Globe

Addiction is a disease.

It’s important that we use language that frames it as a health issue and shows respect to people with an addiction and to their families who are impacted. Just like we would with any other disease, like diabetes or asthma.

A person shouldn’t be defined or labeled by his or her disease or illness, it is something they have. For example: Instead of calling someone a “diabetic,” it’s preferable to use person-first language and say “someone with diabetes.” The same goes with the word “addict.”

We have a choice when we communicate. We can use words that perpetuate the negative stigma around substance use – words that label people with an addiction in a negative, shameful and judgmental way. Or we can use words that are compassionate, supportive and respectful – words that helps others understand substance use disorder as the health issue that it is.

Why You Shouldn’t Use the Word “Addict”


Morristown and Butler Join the Countywide Stigma-Free Initiative


The Butler Borough Council and the Morristown Town Council both have passed resolutions to declare their towns Stigma-Free, making them the 20th and 21st towns to join the Morris County “Stigma Free’’ initiative that aims to help eradicate the stigma associated with mental illness and substance abuse disorders.

Butler Borough official seal

Butler and Morristown join recently announced participants Chatham Borough, Mendham Borough, Mountain Lakes, Roxbury, and Washington Township as Stigma Free communities in Morris County.

Other participants are the town of Boonton, Boonton Township, Denville, Dover, East Hanover, Hanover, Jefferson, Long Hill, Madison, Morris Plains, Morris Township, Parsippany, Rockaway Borough and Rockaway TownshipTown of Morristown official seal

In addition, the Montville Public Schools recently became the first K-12 District in Morris County to enroll in the initiative.

“We are thrilled to be part of this grass roots movement to help the residents of our town and county seek the programs and services they need to recover from mental illness and addiction,’’ said Butler Mayor Bob Alviene. “We want to help save lives by encouraging people with addictions to come forward, to seek treatment without worrying about any stigma, and to embrace their efforts and encourage their recovery.’’

“By becoming a Stigma-Free community, the Town of Morristown will continue to move forward in effort to raise awareness of local resources that can be provided to those with mental health issues and substance abuse,” stated Morristown Mayor Timothy Dougherty. “I hope that this designation will help those who are affected seek the assistance they need without fear of judgment.”Morris County Stigma Free logo

We are really heartened by the support shown for this Stigma-Free initiative by towns like Butler and Morristown, and by so many health providers and nonprofit agencies, and our county residents,’’ said Morris County Freeholder Director Doug Cabana.

“This initiative is an important step in helping affected people seek recovery, without fear of stigma or reprisal.’’

The Morris County Board of Freeholders in 2016 passed a resolution designating Morris County as a Stigma-Free County and asked the county’s 39 towns to consider enrolling.

Morris County has created a Stigma Free website to call attention to the initiative, provide information and resources, and a calendar of upcoming events related to mental illness and substance abuse. A Stigma Free Toolkit also is available for towns and communities. Also, check the Stigma Free news and calendar site at

Morris County’s goal in creating a Stigma Free initiative is to disseminate information and foster a stigma-free environment where people are free from judgment and can get the help they need to recover.

Here are some other voices supporting the initiative:

Mendham Mayor Neil Henry: “We’ve all been affected by mental illness in some way and becoming Stigma-Free is the first step in fighting this disease as a community. Only by removing the perception of shame or embarrassment will we erase those feelings that prevent our neighbors, friends and family members from seeking help.

Washington Township Police Chief Jeff Almer: “With this program, we can continue to teach people about mental illness and substance abuse disorders, and erase the stigma attached to them. “This will make residents, as well as the police officers, more aware of the illnesses and work to create an environment where we can assist with wellness and recovery by providing needed support and resources.’’

Roxbury Mayor Mark Crowley: “The Stigma Free Initiative is so important because it stresses that we become socially responsible for positive efforts to end discrimination of mental health and substance abuse disorders.’’

Dover Mayor James P. Dodd: “To truly change the way society views individuals with substance abuse and mental illness disorders we must change our language, attitude and be more compassionate. “Regardless of the spectrum, we all know or have people in our lives who face these challenges. I’m proud to join the growing number of municipalities that pledge to work toward a more understanding and accepting community for all.”Stigma Free Ribbon

As part of the countywide initiative, residents are urged to take the Stigma Free Pledge:

  • As a supporter to those who have a mental illness or substance use disorder, I understand the importance of recognizing the high prevalence of mental illness and substance use disorders.
  • I also know that when recognition is coupled with reeducation and understanding, health-seeking action can be taken. These actions lead to recovery, which is possible for everyone.
  • The Three R’s (recognize, reeducate and reduce) depend on each other to effectively Stamp Out Stigma surrounding mental illness and substance use disorders.
  • This is what I, as an individual, charge myself to do—to fully Stamp Out Stigma and clear the path to health-seeking behavior. It begins with me.

For more information on the disease of mental illness, visit and for more information on NAMI’s national Stigma Free effort, visit:

Stigma is defined as a mark of disgrace which results from the judgment by others. When an individual is labeled by their illness they experience judgment and prejudice. Stigma brings experiences and feelings of shame, embarrassment, distress, hopelessness and reluctance to seek or accept help.

Remembering Carrie Fisher

“My mom battled drug addiction and mental illness her entire life. She ultimately died of it. She was purposefully open in all of her work about the social stigmas surrounding these diseases.” While the loss of her mother must have been heartbreaking, Lourd is determined to raise awareness of mental health issues, continuing the work Fisher so boldly did throughout her life.

Lourd’s statement continued, “She talked about the shame that torments people and their families confronted by these diseases. I know my Mom, she’d want her death to encourage people to be open about their struggles. Seek help, fight for government funding for mental health programs.”

Read the rest of this article at


Community Song from “Many Faces of Recovery: Celebrating You”

This community song was written based on a set of surveys in honor of The Many Faces of Recovery: Celebrate You.

Thank you Lorraine Ferro and Anna Toby Rabinowitz for writing an amazing song and performing at the forum; thank you to Morris County Board of Chosen Freeholders and the Mental Health Addictions Servises Advisory Board for giving us the opportunity to participate in this years annual forum for Consumers and Families.

Surviving Mental Illness

This is a guest post by Valerie Fox of Morristown.

It has been years since my diagnosis of schizophrenia. At the time I was 21 years old.  Today I am considered old – not middle-aged but old.

Looking back over the years, mental illness in the beginning had played havoc with my life. In the middle of my mental illness journey, schizophrenia was again responsible for destroying the life I had built after the diagnosis. Eventually I healed, but I had deep scars, the signature of schizophrenia.

After healing yet again, I tried to go on with my “new” life. There were times it was very challenging, other times very lonely, but for want of any other way out, I fought schizophrenia. The harder I did not let it rule me, the better I started feeling. Stigma of course was rampant, but it didn’t matter because I had found my calling. While scarred, I did carve a good spot for myself in life.

Today it is approximately 55 years since the onset of schizophrenia in my life. It still occasionally challenges me, but I have learned and learned well it is definitely better to adhere to my treatment than to get caught up in the web of thinking I seem so well, therefore I am well. I have learned the hard way through homelessness that thoughts like that are very dangerous for me to entertain at all so I don’t.

So today after many, many years of living with this illness, I can comfortably say I have survived schizophrenia. I don’t know other persons’ journeys, whether they have been easier than mine or harder, but I hope they too are in a comfortable place in their lives.

Valerie Fox
(a person in recovery)