One in Five Californians Require Mental Health Services

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In a new study, the UCLA Center for Health Policy Research found that nearly one in five adults in California need mental health services. That is over 4.9 million people that need services of some sort.

However, it does not stop there. Approximately one in twenty-five, or more than 1 million, reported symptoms associated with serious psychological distress (SPD), which includes the most serious kinds of diagnosable mental health disorders.

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"There's a lot of need, but also a lot of obstacles connecting those in need to the services that can help them," said David Grant, the study's lead author and director of the CHIS. "Part of the problem may be stigma. It's hard for many Californians to acknowledge they need help -- to their family, friends or their doctor. The challenge for policymakers and providers is to both target appropriate services to those with needs and to reduce fear." Grant noted that since the data was collected, the state has suffered an economic downturn, resulting high unemployment.

"The recession has created even more stress for people," he said. As a result, the study "is probably an underestimate of the true level of mental health need in California right now."

Among the findings researchers discovered that women were twice as likely as men to say they needed help for a mental or emotional health problem such as feeling sad, anxious or nervous. Financial stability played a large role. People with little money were much more likely to report symptoms associated with SPD than those with incomes that were even just slightly higher. The poorest were more than five times as likely to report SPD as those living at or above 300 percent of the federal poverty level. Of course it came to no surprise to the authors of the study that stigma and cultural factors played a major role and posed a significant barrier to mental health care.

It is important to note that the California Health Interview Survey (CHIS) is the nation's largest state health survey and one of the largest health surveys in the United States.

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