A new study released by the NYC Health Department says one in five adult New Yorkers suffers from depression, substance abuse, suicidal thoughts or a similar mental health disorder, calling the situation a "mental health crisis" that's crippling the city both socially and fiscally.
The study, released yesterday, found that depression was most prevalent among New Yorkers, with eight percent of the population suffering from major depressive disorder. More startlingly, the study found that while over half a million adult NYers likely have depression, fewer than 40 percent of that population seeks help for the condition.
In addition to depression, the Health Department says that substance abuse and suicidal thoughts are high on the city's list of mental health problems. A startling eight percent of students attending city schools say they've attempted suicide—considering 73,000 students say they feel "sad or hopeless each month," that number could be even higher than reported.
Substance abuse is another pressing issue, according to the report—the Health Department says 1,800 New Yorkers die of alcohol-related causes alone annually, and accidental fatal drug overdoses have since eclipsed homicide and motor vehicle deaths as top causes of death.
In August, First Lady of New York City Chirlane McCray announced that the city would be funneling $386 million into combating mental health problems, one of her signature issues. "It's always been the elephant in the room, wherever I go," she told us over the summer, referring to her parents' and daughter's battles with depression and anxiety. "If it was identified as a public health problem, like the flu or cancer or breast cancer—any of those things—we would be saying 'This is a crisis!' And it is a crisis."
Indeed, the Health Department has categorized the mental health problem as a public health crisis, noting in the study that depression, anxiety, and other disorders have a serious social and financial toll on the city. Depression alone accounts for $2.4 billion in health care, criminal justice, and lost productivity; alcohol abuse is estimated to cost the city about $6 billion in productivity loss, while illicit and prescription drug misuse takes an estimated $1 billion toll on our criminal justice system.
The department says they'll be releasing a plan, dubbed "NYC Thrive," at the end of the month that aims to combat and address the mental health crisis. "We have a set of public health issues that affect many people and affect them very deeply," Dr. Gary Belkin, a deputy commissioner of the health department, told Reuters. "We know what we're going to be doing, and over the coming weeks you're going to be hearing about it."