Mental health (MH) is increasingly recognized by the public health community as critical to good health. An estimated 26% of Americans age 18 and older suffer from a diagnosable mental disorder in a given year. The estimated lifetime prevalence of any mental disorder among the U.S. adult population is 46%. The interconnections between chronic disease, injury, and mental illness (MI) are striking. For example, tobacco use among people diagnosed with a MI condition is twice that of the general population. In addition, the evidence is extensive for associations between MI and chronic diseases, such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes, obesity, asthma, arthritis, epilepsy, and cancer. Injury rates for both intentional (e.g., homicide) and unintentional (e.g., motor vehicle injuries) injuries are 26 times higher among people with a history of MI than for the general population.
The absence of MI does not mean the presence of MH. Growing research supports the view that MH and MI are independent but related dimensions. MH and well-being are characterized by the presence of positive affect (e.g., optimism, cheerfulness, interest), absence of negative affect, and satisfaction with life. On the otherhand, MI is characterized by alterations in thinking, mood, or behavior associated with distress or impaired unctioning.
In 1999, the Surgeon General’s office released its first report on MH, calling for the full integration of MH into the nation’s public health system. The report concluded that mental disorders are among the most prevalent and costly conditions in the United States and that effective treatment can reduce their prevalence and decrease theiradverse effect on other health conditions. This report called for a broad public health approach that included clinical diagnosis and treatment of MI, as well as surveillance, research, and promotion of MH.
Integrating MH and public health programs that address chronic disease is a challenging but essential task in protecting the health of Americans. The Division of Adult and Community Health (DACH) in the National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has a mission to prevent death and disability from chronic disease and to promote healthy behaviors. With this report, the Public Health Action Plan to Integrate Mental Health Promotion and Mental Illness Prevention with Chronic Disease Prevention, 2011–2015, DACH outlines its goal to include the promotion of MH as a part of its efforts to prevent chronic disease.
In 2008, DACH convened a Mental Health/Mental Illness Expert Workgroup to evaluate current DACH activities and proposals for integrating MH and MI programs in public health. The workgroup was asked to identify research gaps, new activities in the field, and action priorities for public health. The expert workgroup met three times and provided guidance that was used to create this action plan. The action plan includes eight strategies, each with specific actions that can be taken to achieve these strategies during 2011–2015. Click here to read the report.