Staggering New Data Shows Serious Depression Epidemic in America


This month, Mental Health America (MHA) shared some staggering new numbers related to depression in America.  In 2014, the nation’s community-based nonprofit leader in mental health support, recovery and advocacy began screening people for mental health issues using their online, scientifically-based mental health screening tools.

To this date, 1.7 million people took advantage of the screening opportunity.

Most noteworthy, the results of Mental Health America’s screening programs shed a light on the current depression epidemic in America and serve as a wake-up call to the country.

Depression in America

The depression screen is one of nine mental health screens provided online by Mental Health America.

Especially relevant results found by MHA’s depression screening:

  • About 1,400 people screen for depression every day.
  • Sixty-six percent of screeners are under 25; 32 percent are under 18.
  • Fifty-nine percent report to having serious depression.
  • The youngest screeners have the highest scores compared to any other age group — 37 percent of 11-17 year olds score in the range for severe depression.
  • Thirty-two percent of all screeners report they have significant thoughts of suicide or self-harm.
  • Among screeners who self-identify as youth and lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender, 41 percent score for severe depression.

After review, Mental Health America’s president and CEO, Paul Gionfriddo, emphasized the importance of these recent findings on depression in America.

“The sheer volume of individuals seeking mental health screening and supports is astonishing.  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.”

Mental Health Screening Programs

Mental Health America’s screening programs include anonymous, scientifically-based screens for depression, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), bipolar disorder, anxiety, early psychosis, alcohol and substance use, a parent and youth screen, and a work health survey.

Furthermore, after an individual completes their screening, they receive immediate results, education, resources and linkage to MHA affiliates. Along with the results of their screens, the participants provide MHA with valuable demographic and survey responses that allow the organization to further support their mental health policy and education efforts.

Mr. Gionfriddo adds the need for improvement in mental health services.

“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.”

Plans for the Future

MHA plans to launch a new “Screening-to-Supports,” (or S2S) initiative in the next year.  This new initiative will include informational and educational resources.  Plus, people will benefit from receiving referrals to services and supports.

In addition, people will monitor their mental health with do-it-yourself tools.  And engagement with others who are experiencing similar conditions is included in the S2S initiative.

Gionfriddo concluded as follows.

“S2S will use digital and other resources to help people in need onto pathways to recovery.  The reason is simple — because this is what 1.7 million screeners have asked from us. 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.”

Mental Health Screening Tools

In conclusion, one of the quickest and easiest ways to determine whether you are experiencing symptoms of a mental health condition is to use the mental health screening tools provided by Mental Health America.

Mental health conditions, like depression or anxiety, are real — they’re common and treatable. However, recovery is also possible.

Finally, following a screening, information, resources and tools are provided for you.  In addition, you can also discuss the screening results with your doctor or healthcare provider.

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George Zapo, CPH
George Zapo, CPH is certified in Public Health Promotion & Education. George focuses on writing informative articles promoting healthy behavior and lifestyles. Read more of George's articles at his website: