CMHS, in partnership with the National Institute of Mental Health, was a leader in the development of the first Surgeon General's report ever issued on the topic of mental health and mental illness. The report reflected an extensive review of scientific literature on mental health, as well as consultations with mental health care providers and consumers. Contributors, guided by the Office of the Surgeon General, examined more than 3,000 research articles and other materials, including first-person accounts from individuals who experienced mental disorders.
The report, released in December 1999, found that, even though a great deal was already known about how to treat mental illness, much remained to be learned about ways to prevent mental illness and to promote mental health. The groundbreaking report also found that, although a range of effective treatments existed for most mental disorders, nearly half of all Americans with severe mental illnesses failed to seek treatment.
For centuries, society has made a clear separation between the mind and body. The Surgeon General's report made a clear connection between mental and physical health and stressed the fundamental importance of mental health to overall health and well-being. The report recognized that mental disorders affect nearly one in five Americans in any given year. It characterized these mental disorders as real illnesses, that, when left untreated, can be just as serious and disabling as physical diseases such as cancer and heart disease.
The report also emphasized that mental health and mental illness are important concerns for persons of all ages. It examined mental health at every stage of life, from childhood through later adulthood.
The Surgeon General's report set the stage for future programs and activities within CMHS and its parent agency, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. The final chapter of the report identified several broad courses of action to improve the quality of the Nation's mental health in coming years:
- Continue to build a solid research base to increase knowledge about treating and preventing mental disorders.
- Maintain efforts to overcome the stigma of mental illness.
- Ensure the delivery of effective, community-based mental health services.
- Expand the supply of mental health services and providers.
- Facilitate entry into mental health care and treatment.
- Tailor mental health treatments to diverse age, gender, racial, and cultural needs.
- Reduce the financial barriers to treatment.