UTAH (ABC4) – How mentally healthy and happy are Utahns?

A new study looking at the state of mental health throughout the U.S. found that those living in Utah, unfortunately, experience the highest level of mental illness in the nation.

The study by NiceRx, discovered almost 30% of adults in Utah suffer from mental health problems, the highest reported percentage in the U.S.

Researchers used data from SAMHSA’s National Survey On Drug Use And Health to determine its rankings. Around 29.68% of Utahns suffer from some form of mental illness, followed by Oregon with 27.33% and West Virginia with 26.05%.

10 states with the highest rates of mental health illness:

(Courtesy of NiceRx)

“Mental illnesses can be acute or chronic and are diagnosable conditions that affect an individual’s emotional, psychological, and social well-being, and often their behavior,” experts at Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF) say. “These conditions include depression, anxiety, schizophrenia, and mood or personality disorders, among others.”

According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), 550,000 adults in Utah have a mental health condition in 2021. That’s more than two times the population of Salt Lake City, says NAMI.

NAMI reports in February 2021, 40.9% of Utah adults reported feeling symptoms of anxiety or depression. Although experts say 26.4% were unable to access necessary counseling or therapy.

According to KFF, the COVID-19 pandemic only exacerbated mental health conditions even more. Researchers says more than three in ten U.S. adults have reported symptoms of anxiety and/or depressive disorder since May 2020. 

In comparison, in 2019, only one in ten adults reported symptoms of anxiety and/or depressive disorder.

Facts about mental health illness in Utah provided by NAMI:

  • In Utah, 139,000 adults have a serious mental illness.
  • 1 in 6 U.S. youth aged 6–17 experience a mental health disorder each year.
  • 51,000 Utahns aged 12–17 have depression.
  • More than half of people with a mental health condition in the U.S. did not receive any treatment in the last year.
  • Of the 196,000 adults in Utah who did not receive needed mental health care,49.4% did not because of cost.
  • Utahns are over 2x more likely to be forced out-of-network for mental health care than for primary health care — making it more difficult to find care and less affordable due to higher out-of-pocket costs.
  • 2,708,763 people in Utah live in a community that does not have enough mental health professionals.
  • High school students with depression are more than two times more likely to drop out than their peers.
  • 49.3% of Utahns age 12–17 who have depression did not receive any care in the last year.
  • 3,131 people in Utah are homeless and 1 in 3 live with a serious mental illness.
  • On average, 1 person in the U.S. dies by suicide every 11 minutes.
  • In Utah, 665 lives were lost to suicide and 141,000 adults had thoughts of suicide in the last year.

Throughout the pandemic and beyond, large shares of Utah adults with mental illness did not receive care. 

Utahns with mental illness who did not receive any treatment according to KFF:

  • Mild Mental Illness — 62% or 184,000 Utah adults 
  • Moderate Mental Illness — 51.5% or 84,000 Utah adults
  • Serious Mental Illness — 24.4% or 38,000 of Utah adults

Around 9.36% of Utah adults reported an unmet need for mental health treatment which was higher than the U.S. average of 6.2%.

“Unmet need refers to a person having a perceived or recommended need for mental health treatment or counseling but not receiving care,” KFF researchers say. “Among these adults in Utah who reported an unmet need for mental health treatment in the past year, 50.2% (102,000) did not receive care because of cost, which was higher than the U.S. share of 39.7% (6.1 million),” experts say.

In 2020, 7.8% of children ages 3-17 in Utah received mental health care in the past year; compared to 10.8% of children in the U.S. 

“Nationally, many children with mental health needs do not receive mental health care,” says KFF. “Among adults who need mental health or substance use care, some groups are more likely to face barriers to accessing care, including uninsured people, underinsured people, and communities of color.”

Suicide still remains one of the leading causes of death in the U.S., according to the National Institute of Mental Health. Health officials have named suicide a “serious public health concern” and have seen suicidal thoughts and death rates only worsen over the past two years.

KFF says in 2020, the suicide rate in Utah was higher than the national average, with 6.2% of Utah adults having serious thoughts of suicide in the past year, which was higher than the U.S. share (4.6%) in 2018-2019.

In the U.S., KFF says the share of high school students who seriously considered attempting suicide was 18.8% in 2019.

“While suicide is often linked to underlying mental health conditions, that is not always the case, as a combination of factors generally contributes to an individual having thoughts of suicide or attempting suicide,” says KFF. “Risk factors can include isolation, relationship struggles, financial or housing insecurity, or problems with physical health.”

If you or someone you know is struggling with thoughts of suicide, call the suicide prevention hotline at 1-800-273-TALK.

You can also visit National Alliance on Mental Illness Utah (NAMI) for more help and resources, by clicking here.