Individuals With Mental Illness More Likely to Smoke Than General Population

136546897Despite a downward trend in the number of Americans who smoke, individuals with mental illness are still as likely to smoke today as they were in 2004, according to data from the federal Medical Expenditure Panel Survey. The study looked at the time period of 2004 to 2011, when smoking rates in the general population fell 14%, though the rate of smokers with mental illness remained unchanged.

In 2011, about 25% of individuals with mental illnesses reported being smokers, while only about 16.5% of the general population reported smoking.

Individuals with mental illnesses who were undergoing treatment, however, showed greater quit rates than those who were not receiving treatment (37% versus 33%).

The full report appears in the January 8 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Results of 2011 National Survey on Mental Health Released

brain_gearsAccording to the 2011 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, one in five adults in the United States suffered from a mental illness in 2011. This federal government report defined mental illness as a person having a diagnosable mental, behavioral, or emotional disorder, and included more than 65,000 Americans aged 12 and above.

The rate of mental illness was found to be twice as likely in the 18-to-25-year-old age group, close to 30 percent, than it is in those age 50 and above (about 14 percent). Furthermore, women were more likely to have suffered a mental illness than men (about 23 percent versus 16 percent).

Of the 45.6 million people with a mental illness, about 11.5 million reported a serious mental illness, about 5 percent of the adult population. About 38 percent of adults with a mental illness in 2011 received treatment during the year – and about 60 percent of those with a serious mental illness sought help during that time.

Youth also were studied, and it was found that 2 million adolescents between age 12 and 17 had a major depressive episode in 2011, about 8 percent of the population. Young people who had a major depressive epsidoe were more than twice as likely to use illicit drugs than those who did not (36 percent versus 17 percent).

Rates of mental illness remained stable from the prior year.

Premature Birth Linked to Mental Illness in Adulthood

A recent study published in the Archives of General Psychiatry found a relationship between gestational age and various psychiatric disorders in adults. The results suggest that a concrete relationship exists between a shorter gestational period and the onset of mental illness later in life.

The study analyzed data from the medical records of 1.3 million adults born in Sweden between 1973 and 1985. Researchers analyzed multiple pregnancy outcomes including gestational age at birth, birth weight, and Apgar score; they then compared this data with information about psychiatric hospitalization in adulthood and diagnoses of bipolar disorder, depressive disorder, eating disorders, and drug/alcohol dependency.

A smaller gestational weight was associated with alcohol and drug dependency in adulthood, whereas a low Apgar score suggested an association with depressive disorder. Most strikingly, people born very premature (i.e., 32 weeks gestation) were:

  • 2.5 times more likely to have a non-affective psychosis;
  • 2.9 times more likely to have a depressive disorder; and
  • 7.4 times more likely to have bipolar disorder.

Lead author Dr. Chiara Nosarti, from the Institute of Psychiatry at King’s College London, told the BBC, “I don’t think parents should be worried, but we know that preterm birth confers an increased vulnerability to a variety of psychiatric conditions and perhaps parents should be aware of this and monitor early signs of later more serious problems.”

Although Nosarti and her coauthors acknowledge that previous studies have found associations between preterm birth and the onset of psychiatric disorders in childhood as well as adult onset schizophrenia, they assert that this study is the first to find an association between preterm birth and adult onset of both depressive disorder and bipolar affective disorder.

“We found a very strong link between premature birth and a range of psychiatric disorders,” said Nosarti in a King’s College press release. “Since we considered only the most severe cases that resulted in hospitalization, it may be that in real terms this link is even stronger. However, it is important to remember that even with the increased risk, these disorders still only affect 1-6% of the population.”

What do you think? Should parents of premature infants be alerted to their children’s increased risk for mental illness later in life? PAR wants to hear from you, so leave a comment and join the conversation!

Editor’s note: This week, PAR is pleased to welcome guest blogger Grace Gardner. A recent graduate of the University of South Florida with a B.A. in Mass Communication, Grace is working as an editorial assistant this summer in the production department at PAR.

The Stigma of Mental Illness: Coping—and Fighting Back

As those who work in the field of mental health know only too well, mental illness carries a stigma that adds a significant burden to the challenges already facing many clients. Unlike other medical conditions such as cancer or heart disease, mental illness is often seen as a personal weakness or a character flaw. The detrimental effects of this stigma are well understood. In his 1999 Mental Health Report, former Surgeon General David Satcher asserted that “Stigma assumes many forms, both subtle and overt. It appears as prejudice and discrimination, fear, distrust, and stereotyping. It prompts many people to avoid working, socializing, and living with people who have a mental disorder. Stigma impedes people from seeking help for fear the confidentiality of their diagnosis or treatment will be breached.”

What perpetuates the stigma? Unfortunately, it’s not just outdated social attitudes. In fact, negative images and distortions about mental illness abound in current popular media. The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), an advocacy group for people affected by mental illness, publishes a regular column on their website called “StigmaBusters”, which asks members to send in alerts about stereotypes they find in the media. Examples include a November 2010 episode of the popular musical comedy “Glee”, which mocked and trivialized bipolar disorder in a scene where a “crazed” Mary Todd Lincoln is shown shouting at a teapot. A recent issue of Vs., a high-end fashion magazine, features actress Eva Mendes as a patient in a psychiatric institution, writhing on a bed to keep from being restrained. A new television commercial for Burger King shows “The King” on a rampage, chased and then taken away by men in white coats. Some of the most egregious examples have appeared around Halloween. This past fall, “The Pennhurst Asylum,” a Halloween “insane asylum” attraction, opened on the grounds of the former Pennhurst State School and Hospital outside Philadelphia, sparking a controversy that included protests from former residents of the facility (http://www.nami.org/).

If negative images in the media are helping to form the popular perception of mental illness, what are some ways to help clients cope with their effects and counter the stereotypes that the images perpetuate? Advocacy organizations like NAMI offer support to individuals with mental illness and their families, and participating in groups like “StigmaBusters” is one way that people can become advocates, doing their part to fight inaccurate and hurtful representations of mental illness. The Mayo Clinic website (http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/mental-health) is another excellent resource that describes steps to cope with stigma, including advice on how to seek support and educate others about mental illness.

And it’s not all bad news in the media. The Voice Awards, sponsored by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), recognize writers and producers of television and film who have given voice to people with mental health problems by incorporating dignified, respectful, and accurate portrayals of people with mental illness into their scripts, programs, and productions. In 2010, a Voice Award for best documentary went to actor Joe Pantoliano for his film No Kidding, Me Too!, which explores the journey of several individuals with mental illness and includes a candid account of his personal struggle with depression. Although best known for his roles in The Matrix, Memento, and the televisions series “The Sopranos,” Pantoliano is an activist, working to raise social awareness and understanding of mental health through a non-profit organization that he created to encourage members of the entertainment industry to help educate the public about mental illness. “We know this is a tough fight,” says Pantoliano. “We know years of ingrained socialization causes people to recoil or isolate anyone with the scarlet letter of mental illness…. However, we also know that by releasing the talents of those with mental illness—by giving them the opportunity to use their outstanding artistic and intellectual skills—we will vastly improve the world. And this is a cause worth supporting” (http://nkm2.org/about-us/).

In your practice, is stigma affecting your clients? How do you help clients to cope with stigma, and what resources have you found to be most useful? We want to hear from you, so post your comments and let’s start the conversation!