Magazine article The Nation's Health

Integrating Mental Health and Public Health: A Call to Action

Magazine article The Nation's Health

Integrating Mental Health and Public Health: A Call to Action

Article excerpt

In 1999, then-U.S. Surgeon General David Satcher, MD, PhD, released a report on mental health that challenged us to take action--to ensure that mental health services are available, accessible and equitable. The report encouraged continued research and translation of research into practice to promote mental health, and asked that we work toward removing barriers to preventing and treating mental illness. It argued for the importance of considering mental health as a core component of physical health--a component that is integral to human and community health.

The National Institute for Mental Health reports that approximately 25 percent of adults suffer from a diagnosable mental disorder in a given year, and that mental disorders are the leading cause of disability in the United States and Canada for people ages 15-44. We know that this is a global problem. In fact, the World Health Organization's Global Burden of Disease project found that mental illness accounts for more than 15 percent of the burden of diseases in established market economies.

Evidence of the prevalence of mental disorders is presented to us daily through national and international news. We saw the April 2007 Virginia Tech campus shootings perpetrated by a young man suffering from severe mental illness. We have seen an increase in the number of college students suffering from mental and substance use disorders, many of which reach their peak onset in adolescent and young adult years.

Substance abuse and mental health disorders too often go hand-in-hand. We know that alcohol use at a young age increases the risk of alcohol dependence in adulthood and also has a negative impact on the developing brain, yet we Linda Degutis, DrPH president@apha. …

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