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Mental Illness Prevention: Not a Priority for Most People

Jun 08, 2012
Mental Illness Prevention: Not a Priority for Most People

According to a recent study published in Psychiatric Services, despite the fact that mental illness is considered much more burdensome than general medical problems, people are 40% less willing to pay its prevention.

Research leader Dylan M. Smith of Stony Brook University School of Medicine and his team recruited a nationally representative sample of 710 adults and introduced them to five health problems consisting of conditions like diabetes, partial blindness and below-the-knee amputation, and two mental illnesses like depression and schizophrenia. The participants were asked to categorize each health condition in terms of severity and level of burden on their quality of life before disclosing how much they would pay to prevent the condition.

Dr. Smith says that “our results showed that participants understood that mental illness clearly has a very negative impact on quality of life, yet were significantly not as willing to pay for effective treatments for these illnesses”.

Dr. Peter Ubel of Duke University and senior author of the study, says that “all else equal, the general public doesn’t think it is as valuable to treat mental illness as other types of illness. There is a fundamental disconnect between how bad they think it would be to experience depression and their willingness to spend money to rid themselves of the illness.”

The study participants reported that, in general, they considered physical illnesses less severe than mental illnesses, but in response to the question of how ‘burdensome’ they would rate each condition, they gave schizophrenia the highest average burden score, but without the highest willingness-to-pay value. A similar response was observed for depression, which scored a relatively high ‘burdensomeness’ rating but received the lowest median willingness-to-pay value.

The researchers say that “efforts to eliminate the gap between mental health conditions and general health conditions will likely require targeting specific beliefs that people have about mental illnesses and the value of treatments for mental illness”.

They concluded by suggesting that further research should “explore the deeper underlying attitudes that reduce people's willingness to spend money to avoid mental illness.”

The Special Clinics at Bangkok Hospital provide a range of evaluative counseling and assessment services including treatment for patients with psychiatric disorders, mental health problems and learning disorders in children, adolescents and adults, including:

  • Child and Adolescent Psychiatry
  • Psychiatry for Adults and the Elderly 
  • Individual Counseling and Psychotherapy
  • Group Counseling & Family Therapy


If you or someone you love needs help, please call 1719

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