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Mental Health Awareness Month: Screenings highlight prevalence – Bio.News

Anonymous screening of 6.5 million people worldwide released on May 1 confirms the depth of the mental health challenges we face.

Among the more than 2 million respondents in the U.S. who took a Mental Health America (MHA) online screening in 2023, 79% scored positive for moderate to severe symptoms of a mental health condition. The screenings, started in 2014, indicate worrying trends, such as a high rate of suicide ideation among young people.

“Rates of anxiety and risk for psychosis remain higher than prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, while the ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder) screen overtook depression to become the most widely taken screen of 2023,” says MHA.

MHA’s screenings have helped millions of people increase awareness about their own personal mental health, so they can get the treatment they need. The anonymous data generated through these self tests help all of us be more aware of the extent of mental health challenges. Mental Health Awareness Month in May is another tool to make sure we are focused on the challenge of maintaining mental health. 

Awareness also extends to policy. When it comes to government policy, MHA’s support for increased access to medicine for patients dovetails with priorities of the Biotechnology Innovation Organization (BIO).

The state of our mental health

The MHA screening exams are designed to help people determine whether they may have a mental health condition and connect them with resources. Many who take the screenings do so because they already suspect they have an issue, so the number of screeners finding they are likely to have a mental health concern can be expected higher than that of the general public.

Still the growing number of people who want to take the screening, and the trends in different types of conditions, give an indication about the level of mental health concerns in society:

  • Among people under 18 who took the screening for depression, 49% report frequent suicidal thoughts of the previous two weeks. “LGBTQ+ youth who identified as ‘other’ race were most likely to report suicidal ideation at 64%,” says MHA. Black, Indigenous, and people of color of all ages had a 40% rate of frequent suicidal ideation, while white people taking the screenings had a 33% rate.
  • “Among those who screened positive or moderate to severe for a mental health condition in 2023, 58% cited body image or self-image as one of the top three reasons contributing to their mental health concerns, followed by 49% reporting relationship problems and 47% reporting school or work problems,” MHA says.
  • While 64% of people taking the ADHD screening were over age 18, “ADHD screeners under 18 show the highest signs of severity, with 88% of youth taking the screens scoring at risk,” MHA says.

Modern pressures and what we can do

Things beyond our control can impact mental health, and the increasing stresses of modern life can raise the rate of mental health concerns.

“The world is constantly changing—for better or for worse—and it can be overwhelming to deal with everything going on around you,” MHA says.

Whatever the cause, it is important to understand that there is no stigma in seeking help. But once someone acknowledges they need help, the next question is where to get it.

That’s why the theme of this year’s Mental Health Awareness Month is “Where to Start;” MHA offers assistance with finding help in its book of the same title, “Where to Start.” There are also good resources on their web site. For those who want to share the message of Mental Health Awareness Month, MHA also provides an online toolkit.

Prescription drugs and ensuring access

Prescription drugs can help with mental health conditions, and there are many different medical options for:

One exciting new area of mental health treatments is psychedelics, which are being investigated for use in a number of health conditions and offer the promise of having a speedier impact than other drugs, as an I am BIO podcast explains.

Ensuring that patients have easy access to these drugs is one of MHA’s policy priorities—and one they share with BIO.

“Preferred drug lists with prior authorization requirements, restrictive formularies, fail-first requirements, monthly prescription limits, and tiered co-payment structures, not only fail to achieve what should be their intended purpose of reducing overall healthcare costs but prolong human suffering and reduce the potential for an individual with a mental health or substance use condition to achieve full recovery,” MHA says.

MHA offers resources for those who want to become active in advocating policy issues or just advocating for the rights of those with mental health conditions.