NEW YORK CITY – April 10, 2006 – Three quarters of a million New York City adults reported experiencing frequent mental distress last year, according to new data from the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DOHMH). Nearly 1 in 7 adults (13%) living in the five boroughs reported frequent mental distress in 2005, compared with approximately 1 in 10 adults in New York State and the nation.
Additionally, an in-depth study of data from 2003* found that overall mental health was worse among women, Hispanics, individuals who were formerly married, and among New Yorkers who were poor, in poor health, or chronically unemployed. Only 4 in 10 New Yorkers with poor overall mental health reported receiving counseling or medication for a mental health problem in the past year. The biggest barrier to care was cost; other barriers included access and logistical barriers (e.g., difficulty scheduling an appointment, not knowing where to go, lack of time or childcare), stigma, not wanting treatment, and not believing that treatment would work.
These data were collected in DOHMH’s annual community health assessments from 2003 and 2005, an annual phone survey of 10,000 New York City adults. Individuals who reported that their mental health (including stress, depression or problems with emotions) was “not good” on 14 or more days of the past month were classified as having frequent mental distress. Overall poor mental health was identified with a 6-item scale designed to measure nonspecific psychological distress. Neither of these measures represents a clinical diagnosis of depression or other mental illness.
These and other unpublished data will be presented on Monday, April 10 at Advancing Public Mental Health into the Mainstream Public Health, a conference jointly sponsored by DOHMH and the Hunter College Program in Urban Public Health. The conference will take place on Monday, April 10 at the Kaye Playhouse at Hunter College on East 68th Street from 9:00A.M. – 4:30 P.M. Speakers will be present from DOHMH, the Academic Medicine Development Company (AMDeC), the Mount Sinai School of Medicine, City University, Health and Hospitals Corporation, the NYU School of Medicine and the New York Academy of Medicine.
Dr. Lloyd Sederer, DOHMH’s Executive Deputy Commissioner for Mental Health Services, said, “Depression is a serious and under-diagnosed condition in New York City. With so many New Yorkers having frequent mental distress, it’s very probable that many of these people would have a clinical depression diagnosis if they received proper screening. Depression is devastating and there is no shame in getting treatment. When treated properly, New Yorkers with depression lead fuller and more productive lives.”
“We’ve looked very closely at the data, and too many people are not receiving treatment,” said Tina McVeigh, a psychiatric epidemiologist at DOHMH. “40% of New Yorkers with poor overall mental health and ‘a lot’ of impairment reported receiving no formal treatment.”
Dr. Neal Cohen, former commissioner of the Departments of Health and Mental Health, said “DOHMH’s application of public health surveillance tools to the field of mental health can lead to major advances in the overall public health of New Yorkers.”
"Get Help for Depression" – a Take Care New York Priority
Take Care New York, the City's health policy, prioritizes the top ten things all New Yorkers can do to be healthier, including “Get Help for Depression.” Undetected and untreated depression results in unnecessary individual suffering, family and community burden, and increases the use of health care services. Depression also impacts negatively on many medical conditions, such as diabetes, heart disease and arthritis, worsening them making those conditions less responsive to treatment. Additionally, untreated depression can tragically lead to disability and suicide.
The Mental Health Association of New York City operates LIFENET under a contract with DOHMH, which provides information and referral services, and is available in English 1-800-LIFENET (1-800-543-3638), Spanish (1-877-AYUDESE; 1-877-298-3373), and Chinese (1-877-990-8585). For other languages, New Yorkers can call LIFENET and ask for a translator. The TTY number for LIFENET is (212) 982-5284.
To find out more about getting screened for depression, call 311 and ask for LIFENET.
*These data will be published in the May issue of the Journal of Urban Health.