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The State of Mental Health in America: What Were the Most Common Disorders in 2021?

Updated: Mar 24, 2023

✎ Written by: Dubravka Rebic

The year 2021 had its fair share of road bumps, and will likely go down in history as one of the most challenging years of the 21st century. From dealing with multiple waves of the pandemic, uncertainty, and a strange introduction to the Greek alphabet (Thanks, COVID.), to a global recession and climate change, the year behind us brought with it many challenges.

Therefore, it comes as no surprise that our mental health as a collective was also affected. In fact, Mental Health America released an annual report showing that nearly 50 million Americans, or 1 in 5, are experiencing a mental illness. And more than half of them are going untreated.

Depression and anxiety spiked as the most common mental health disorders in 2021. Moreover, the way people experienced these mental health struggles differed throughout different states. The annual report also sheds light on the issue of access to care and the ability of people struggling with mental health conditions to get the support and care that they need.

A Sharp Increase in Depression

​​The fear of being infected or infecting someone else, the economic downturn, and social isolation have led an increasing number of people to ruminate, feel hopeless and helpless, and, ultimately, experience symptoms of depression.

In fact, the first national study in the US to assess the change in the prevalence of depression before and during COVID-19 found that 32.8% of US adults experienced elevated depressive symptoms in 2021, compared to 27.8% of adults in the early months of the pandemic in 2020, and 8.5% before the pandemic.

Illustration: COVID19 and Life Stressors Impact on Mental Health and Well-being study.

These sustained high levels of depression are unique and have never been reported before. For example, while previous large-scale traumatic events such as Hurricane Ike or Ebola in Sierra Leone yielded high levels of depression following the traumatic events but lowered over time, the COVID-19 context has maintained high levels of depression.

A Look at Mental Health Around the United States

Since the beginning of the pandemic, people of all ages have sought help for mental and emotional conditions. However, their ability to get the support they needed was limited.

The annual report released by Mental Health America measured and compared access to insurance, treatment, quality and cost of insurance, access to special education, and mental health workforce availability across the United States. The below four measures were highlighted:

  1. The states with the largest decreases of youth who did not receive treatment were Colorado, Illinois, and Oklahoma. The most significant increases were in Nebraska, Texas, Delaware, and South Dakota.

  2. The largest improvements in access to care for youth were marked in Illinois, Colorado, and Nevada. The most significant declines were noted in Hawaii, Ohio, and Delaware.

  3. The largest decrease in the percentage of adults with thoughts of suicide was in Wisconsin, Montana, and Rhode Island. While the largest increase was in Ohio, Delaware, Arizona, and Texas.

  4. The percentage of youth with severe mental health disorders decreased in Connecticut, Wisconsin, and Idaho. And the largest increase was seen in Wyoming, Minnesota, Delaware, and Nebraska.

Demand for Mental Health Treatment Continues to Increase

As more people seek treatment for mental health conditions, the demand for psychological practitioners and mental care is increasing, and the change is noticed in the rise of new technological solutions that aim to provide remote mental care to individuals, to improve accessibility.

The number of psychologists who reported receiving an increase of referrals in 2021 nearly doubled from reports in 2020 (from 37% in 2020 to 62% in 2021) according to a survey by the American Psychological Association. Almost 7 in 10 psychologists (68%) with a waitlist reported that it had grown longer since the start of the pandemic, particularly for those who treat anxiety disorders and depression.

This has led many psychologists to incorporate remote therapy into their practice, where 96% of mental health therapists adopted a hybrid approach of seeing some patients in person and some remotely.

Turning to Digital Mental Health Solutions

Because of the pandemic, digital therapy tools are more important than ever in supporting existing mental care, increasing scalability, and increasing capacity for mental health practices.

But how well do digital mental health services work? A meta-analysis of 452 studies found high patient satisfaction and quality equivalent to that of in-person care. Furthermore, digital cognitive behavioral training (CBT) programs have proven to be effective in treating anxiety and depression.

That is why Myndlift has decided to combine neurotechnology, behavioral psychology, and human care in order to help mental health professionals provide measurable, digital, and remote care. With the use of large science-backed therapy toolkits (that support digital coaching and counseling) along with at-home neurofeedback training, more mental health needs may be effectively met.

By helping more people improve the quality of their lives, slowly but surely, digital solutions may change the state of mental health in America, and globally, for the better!

Myndlift aims to empower mental health specialists with data by offering science-backed therapy tools for counselors, a complete life coaching toolkit for coaches, and tools to perform a remote assessment for therapists worldwide.

Learn more about how Myndlift can help you get better outcomes with clients here, or schedule a demo right now to find out how you can get started with Myndlift for mental health practitioners. We can't wait to meet you!


About the author:

Dubravka Rebic puts a lot of time and energy into researching and writing in order to help create awareness and positive change in the mental health space. From poring over scientific studies to reading entire books in order to write a single content piece, she puts in the hard work to ensure her content is of the highest quality and provides maximum value.


Reference list: Reinert, M, Fritze, D. & Nguyen, T. (October 2021). “The State of Mental Health in America 2022” Mental Health America, Alexandria VA.

Ettman CK, Cohen GH, Abdalla SM, Sampson L, Trinquart L, Castrucci BC, Bork RH, Clark MA, Wilson I, Vivier PM, Galea S. Persistent depressive symptoms during COVID-19: a national, population-representative, longitudinal study of U.S. adults. Lancet Reg Health Am. 2022 Jan;5:100091. doi: 10.1016/j.lana.2021.100091. Epub 2021 Oct 4. PMID: 34635882; PMCID: PMC8488314.

Hubley S, Lynch SB, Schneck C, Thomas M, Shore J. Review of key telepsychiatry outcomes. World J Psychiatry. 2016 Jun 22;6(2):269-82. doi: 10.5498/wjp.v6.i2.269. PMID: 27354970; PMCID: PMC4919267.

Carl JR, Miller CB, Henry AL, Davis ML, Stott R, Smits JAJ, Emsley R, Gu J, Shin O, Otto MW, Craske MG, Saunders KEA, Goodwin GM, Espie CA. Efficacy of digital cognitive behavioral therapy for moderate-to-severe symptoms of generalized anxiety disorder: A randomized controlled trial. Depress Anxiety. 2020 Dec;37(12):1168-1178. doi: 10.1002/da.23079. Epub 2020 Jul 29. PMID: 32725848.

Health Quality Ontario. Internet-Delivered Cognitive Behavioural Therapy for Major Depression and Anxiety Disorders: A Health Technology Assessment. Ont Health Technol Assess Ser. 2019 Feb 19;19(6):1-199. PMID: 30873251; PMCID: PMC6394534.


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