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May 2017

Future Surveillance of Mental Disorders in the United States: Count People, Not Disorders

Author Affiliations
  • 1Genetic Epidemiology Branch, Intramural Research Program, National Institute of Mental Health, Bethesda, Maryland
  • 2Epidemiology Research Group, Department of Psychiatry, Stony Brook University School of Medicine, Stony Brook, New York
  • 3Health Policy and Management, Rollins School of Public Health, Emory University, Atlanta, Georgia
JAMA Psychiatry. 2017;74(5):431-432. doi:10.1001/jamapsychiatry.2017.0109

The relative absence of statistics in the United States1 on the prevalence of schizophrenia and other mental illnesses with severe impairment contrasts with the abundant information collected by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and other agencies on other health conditions (eg, cancer and heart disease) and behaviors (eg, smoking and alcohol use). Schizophrenia and other serious mental disorders are among the leading causes of disabilities of all chronic diseases worldwide.2 When untreated or inadequately treated, serious mental disorders are associated with severe disabilities, unemployment, homelessness, suicide, and even violence. Despite knowledge about the extent of disabilities associated with serious mental illness, the past 2 decades have seen a shift in the burden of care from psychiatric facilities to the general medical sector, community settings, families, and prisons that are often ill-prepared to recognize mental illness and facilitate treatment. This shift has received attention not only by mental health professionals and community institutions who serve these individuals, but also by the media.