Eight percent of Californians need mental-health care

Just under 2 million Californians have mental-health problems or illnesses that require treatment, but only a fraction of them receive care, according to a report released Wednesday by the UCLA Center for Health Policy Research.

The study found that one in 12 of the state’s adults have symptoms that are consistent with serious psychological distress and cause them difficulty functioning at home or work. About half said they are not receiving treatment for their symptoms and about 25% receive “inadequate treatment,” according to the authors of the report. Inadequate is defined as less than four visits with a healthcare provider over the last 12 months or using prescription drugs to manage mental-health symptoms.

While 8% of adults reported mental-health problems, 17% of single parents said they needed mental-health care. Married adults with or without children had the lowest rates of mental disorders at 6% and 5% respectively. Nearly 20% of lesbian, gay and bisexual adults said they had unmet mental-health needs.

Mental-health care needs to be integrated into general health care, and primary-care doctors should ask patients about their mental health, the authors wrote. Moreover, doctors should screen their patients for mental-health problems and refer them to specialized providers.


“There is a huge gap between needing help and getting help,” the lead author of the study, David Grant, director of the California Health Interview Survey, said in a news release. The data in the report was drawn from the 2007 survey.

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