Mental illness is common and disabling. Although treatment is effective, many who suffer from mental illness do not receive treatment or delay seeking it. Fragmentation in the medical and mental health treatment system results in insufficient identification, treatment, follow-up, family engagement and linkage to community supports.
Barriers to treatment exist on the individual, familial, societal and medical system levels. Compared with other adults, those with mental illness are more likely to engage in unhealthy behaviors and suffer from elevated rates of mortality from preventable and treatable physical illnesses such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease and respiratory disease. Much of this increased mortality is attributed to inadequate integration of mental and physical healthcare, disparities in the delivery of medical services and lifestyle factors that disproportionately burden individuals with mental illness.
Less severe, but more common forms of mental illness, such as depression and anxiety disorders, contribute to substantial morbidity and can also impede management of chronic medical conditions. Primary care providers can effectively identify and treat mental illness, especially when robust care management, referral and specialty consultation is available.