Estimates of the Number of Local People with Mental Health Problems and the Community’s Capacity to Provide Help

by Steven Stern and Ali Taylor

 

It is critical to understand the magnitude of the difference between the number of people in the community with mental health problems and the community’s capacity to provide help.  Using a national survey, the National Health Interview Survey (1995),[1] and local Census data, we estimated the prevalence of mental health problems using methodology described in Stern (2009).  According to our findings, there are currently 26,318 local people over the age of 18 with mental health problems.[2] This estimates to roughly 15.2% of the total adult population. Furthermore, when controlling for annual income, we estimated that 22.0% of people below the poverty level (or roughly 7,000 individuals) have a mental health problem.

 

We were also able to estimate the number of individuals who have mental health problems within different age groups. The graph below summarizes the number of people with mental health problems based on their age. The prevalence of mental health problems declines with age.

 

 

Additionally, we were able to estimate the number of people with mental health problems for different income groups. The graph below shows the number of individuals with mental health problems based on their annual income. Individuals were separated into four groups based on their income: those with an annual income below the poverty line, those above the poverty line but below twice the poverty line, those above twice the poverty line but below four times the poverty line, and those making more than four times the poverty line.

 

 

While the graph shows that the highest number of individuals with mental health problems is actually making more than four times the poverty level, the large demand for help among those below the poverty line is striking as well.

 

Finally, we collected data from local organizations regarding their capacity and found that, in the past year, the estimated number of individuals with mental health problems that were provided service in the area was 3,088. This excludes service provision by private providers, but, at least among the poorest groups, private provision is not financially feasible.  There is a clear disconnect between this number of people receiving treatment or care and the number of people with mental health problems in the area (26,318). With only roughly 11.7% of individuals getting the help they need, the need to increase funding and capacity within these organizations is urgent.

 

 

Stern, Steven (2009). “Estimating Local Prevalence of Mental Health Problems.” http://www.people.virginia.edu/~sns5r/resint/psychstf/mentalhealthprevalence.pdf.



[1] There are two other, modern recent, national surveys that would have produced even higher estimates of the number of people needing mental health care services.

[2] The local area is defined as Charlottesville, Albemarle County, Louisa County, Nelson County, Greene County, and Fluvanna County.