Skip to main content


Log in

Mental Health Care Disparities Now and in the Future

  • Published:
Journal of Racial and Ethnic Health Disparities Aims and scope Submit manuscript


In 2014, the USA spent $3 trillion dollars in health care the most per capita in the world. However, the USA lacks universal health coverage, and lags behind other highly developed and wealthy countries in life expectancy (even some “non wealthy” countries have better outcomes). The USA also has deficits in other health outcome measures. Health care costs in the USA continue to rise annually and many patients receive only mediocre care. In addition, clear disparities exist across different communities, socioeconomic groups, and race and ethnicity groups. As a result, individuals with mental illness are at an increased risk of being homeless, committing suicide, and having problems maintaining a job. This paper will address mental health disparities and review the efforts some states are taking to improve the lifesaving services offered to citizens with mental illness, in order for them to recover and reach their full potentials.

This is a preview of subscription content, log in via an institution to check access.

Access this article

Subscribe and save

Springer+ Basic
EUR 32.99 /Month
  • Get 10 units per month
  • Download Article/Chapter or Ebook
  • 1 Unit = 1 Article or 1 Chapter
  • Cancel anytime
Subscribe now

Buy Now

Price excludes VAT (USA)
Tax calculation will be finalised during checkout.

Instant access to the full article PDF.

Similar content being viewed by others


  1. Kessler R, McGonagle K, Zhao S, Nelson C, Hughes M, Eshleman S, et al. Lifetime and 12-month prevalence of DSM-III-R psychiatric disorders in the United States: results from the National Comorbidity Survey. Arch Gen Psychiatry. 1994;51(1):8–19.

    Article  CAS  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  2. Harding C, Brooks G, Ashikaga T, Strauss JS, Breier A. The Vermont longitudinal study of persons with severe mental illness. Am J Psychiatr. 1987;144(6):727–35.

    Article  CAS  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  3. Merikangas KR, He J, Burstein M, Swendsen J, Avenevoli S, Case B, Georgiades K, Heaton L, Swanson S, Olfson M. Service utilization for lifetime mental disorders in U.S. adolescents: results of the National Comorbidity Survey-Adolescent Supplement (NCS-A). J Am Acad Child Adolesc Psychiatry. 2011;50(1):32–45.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  4. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. Results from the 2013 National Survey on Drug Use and Health: summary of National Findings. NSDUH series H-48, HHS Publication No. (SMA) 14–4863. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration: Rockville; 2014.

    Google Scholar 

  5. Ayalon L, Alvidrez J. The experience of black consumers in the mental health system--identifying barriers to and facilitators of mental health treatment using the consumers' perspective. Issues in mental health nursing. 2007;28(12):1323–40.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  6. Alegria M, et al. Disparity in depression treatment among racial and ethnic minority populations in the United States. Psychiatr Serv. 2008;59(11):1264–72.

    Article  PubMed  PubMed Central  Google Scholar 

  7. Hankerson SH, Suite D, Bailey RK. Treatment disparities among African American men with depression: implications for clinical practice. J Health Care Poor Underserved. 2015;26(1):21–34. doi:10.1353/hpu.2015.0012.

  8. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), Office of the Surgeon General and National Action Alliance for Suicide Prevention. 2012. 2012 national strategy for suicide prevention: Goals and objectives for action. Retrieved from

  9. McIntosh JL, for the American Association of Suicidology. U.S.A. suicide 2006: Official Final Data. Washington, DC: American Association of Suicidology. 2009,

  10. Glover RW, Miller JE, Sadowski SR. Proceedings on the state budget crisis and the behavioral health treatment gap: the impact on public substance abuse and mental health, National Association of State Mental Health Program Directors March 22, 2012. 2012.

  11. Walker ER, McGee RE, Druss BG. Mortality in mental disorders and global disease burden implications: a systematic review and meta-analysis. JAMA Psychiatry. 2015; doi:10.1001/jamapsychiatry.2014.2502.

  12. Chesney E, Goodwin GM, Fazel S. Risks of all-cause and suicide mortality in mental disorders: a meta-review. World Psychiatry. 13(2):153–60.

  13. Jefferis BJ, Nazareth I, Marston L, Moreno-Kustner B, Bellón JA, Svab I, Rotar D, Geerlings MI, Xavier M, Goncalves-Pereira M, Vicente B, Saldivia S, Aluoja A, Kalda R, King M. Associations between unemployment and major depressive disorder: evidence from an international, prospective study (the predict cohort). Soc Sci Med. 2011;73:1627–34.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  14. Kessler RC, Heeringa S, Lakoma MD, Petukhova M, Rupp AE, Schoenbaum M, Wang PS, Zaslavsky AM. Individual and societal effects of mental disorders on earnings in the United States: results from the National Comorbidity Survey Replication. Am J Psychiatry. 2008;165:703–11.

    Article  PubMed  PubMed Central  Google Scholar 

  15. United States Government Accountability Office. Young adults with serious mental illness: some states and federal agencies are taking steps to address their transition challenges (Report to Congressional Requestors, GAO-08-678). 2008. Retrieved from

  16. Estimates updated from: Insel TR Assessing the economic costs of serious mental illness Am J Psychiatry. 2008;165(6):663–5. doi:10.1176/appi.ajp.2008.08030366.

  17. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). Uniform reporting system. 2008,

Download references

Author information

Authors and Affiliations


Corresponding author

Correspondence to Daphne Sharpe.

Ethics declarations

Conflict of Interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Ethical Approval

This article does not contain any studies with human participants or animals performed by any of the authors.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and permissions

About this article

Check for updates. Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Bailey, R., Sharpe, D., Kwiatkowski, T. et al. Mental Health Care Disparities Now and in the Future. J. Racial and Ethnic Health Disparities 5, 351–356 (2018).

Download citation

  • Received:

  • Revised:

  • Accepted:

  • Published:

  • Issue Date:

  • DOI: