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Health Agencies Update
January 19, 2000

Mental Disorders Undertreated

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JAMA. 2000;283(3):325. doi:10.1001/jama.283.3.325-JHA90011-2-1

Despite the fact that effective treatments are now available for many mental disorders, nearly half of all Americans who have a severe mental illness fail to seek treatment, concludes US Surgeon General David Satcher in a sweeping new report, the first-ever surgeon general's report on the subject.

The 500-page document considers more than 3000 studies and reviews scientific advances in the understanding of mental health and of mental illnesses that affect at least one in five Americans. Major conclusions of the report include the observation that diseases such as depression and schizophrenia can be as disabling as cancer and heart disease, that a range of effective treatments exists for most mental disorders, and that many people are not availing themselves of such treatments because of the social stigma associated with mental illness as well as financial and other barriers.