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New Mexico Leads Nation In Per Capita Mental Illness

A new federal report ranks New Mexico as the state with the highest percentage of citizens with mental illness. But the 416-page survey also reveals states in the Southwest are above average in many areas like access to mental health services.

The purpose of the Behavioral Health 2012 report is to look at where states stand in relation to national averages. The hope is for policy makers to examine areas of the mental health system that need help.

Data collected in 2009 show that nationally there are about 11 psychiatrists per 100,000 people. In Arizona, for the same year, there were only eight per 100,000 people. The report by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) also looked at the number of 24-hour mental health care providers, the number of child and adolescent psychiatrists, and the number of substance abuse counselors in each state.

Peter Delany is a spokesman with SAMHSA. He says in New Mexico, those services are on par with national averages. However, he adds that with so many data sets and services to examine in so many states there are big variations.

“Not everyone’s going to look the same because you have different resources in the community and different needs at the community level and all that adds up to the state picture,” said Delany. “It’s really what happens at the community level sometimes that’s more important.”

Nationally, the report estimates that 17.8 percent of individuals suffer from mental illness. Compared to other states, New Mexico showed the highest rate of mental illness: 23.6 percent.