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Some 4.9 million Californians need help for mental health

While about 4.9 million Californians need help for a mental or emotional health problem, only a third of them have visited a professional for treatment. That's according to self reports gathered for a comprehensive new study by the UCLA Center for Health Policy Research.

The researchers attribute low levels of treatment to fear of stigma associated with such conditions and lack of health insurance.

If 4.9 million (that's a fifth of the state's adult population) seems like a large figure, consider this: The study was based on data from 2005. The researchers speculate the number has grown with the economic downturn and rising levels of unemployment.

Among the report's findings:

  • Approximately one in 25, or more than 1 million, reported symptoms associated with serious psychological distress (SPD), which includes the most serious kinds of diagnosable mental health disorders.
  • The poorest adults - those living below 100 percent of the federal poverty level - were much more likely to report symptoms associated with SPD than those with incomes that were even just slightly higher. The poorest were more than five times as likely to report SPD as those living at or above 300 percent of the federal poverty level.
  • Women were [about 1.5 times more likely than] men (22.7 percent vs. 14.3 percent) to say they needed help for a mental or emotional health problem ("perceived need"), such as feeling sad, anxious or nervous.

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