The Individual Costs of Untreated Mental Health Issues

person crouching at grave stoneA mental health issue is a mental or behavioral anomaly that causes suffering or impairs the ability to function. Mental health conditions affect the way you perceive situations, think, or feel, and thus how you act. This definition is broad so that it can catch a wide variety of symptoms, effects, and diagnoses, many of which can hold a negative stigma. The truth is, the stigma that may be associated with the diagnosis of a mental health issue is ill-placed. Prevention, understanding, and treatment are important in efforts to combat the discrimination and fear that hold back progress.

Mental health issues are common and affect a majority of people at one point or another. If you haven’t personally been affected, chances are you know someone who has. Volumes of research have found that almost all Americans aged 16 to 84 had experienced a mental health condition or known someone who had.

The most common mental health concern in the world is depression, predicted to be the largest health issue globally by 2020. Anxiety is the second-most commonly reported issue and is on the rise with busier, more stressful lives and the absence of active preventative measures. If you experience one of these conditions, you’re nowhere near alone! Although it can be difficult to see beyond the lines of the condition, it is important to get help so that you can move toward successful coping.

Many people feel that they can somehow “wait things out,” as if just wishing it away and complacently adjusting to a compromised lifestyle is their only option. Few mental health issues retreat on their own without any treatment or active work by the person affected. Depression and anxiety have large, obvious costs that affect you, your job, your family, and your friends.

Staggering costs are associated with mental health issues. Suicide is the most extreme cost, as it costs your life. According to statistics at, the website for the National Alliance on Mental Illness, more than 15% of depressed people take their own lives and suicide is the 11th-leading cause of death in the United States. However, the other 85% of people experiencing depression suffer innumerable personal costs, too. Living with untreated depression can be very difficult, as can be the challenges and work it takes to achieve successful coping and treatment.

Relationships may suffer greatly for those with mental health issues because when life is difficult to navigate on your own, others may get pushed away and it can be hard to feel loved and trust others. Untreated mental health issues often compel people to shut down, and thus school performance, work performance, motivation, and a basic passion for life may dwindle. People experiencing major depression are associated with taking more annual sick days than people experiencing any chronic disease. According to NAMI, depressed workers have the highest rates of absenteeism and the lowest rates of productivity.

The costs of untreated mental health issues are large, and although we should be concerned with the effects that spread out to social networks, workplace earnings, and national investments, the most notable costs are individual. Mental health conditions affect people, first and foremost, and the key to treating and coping with them is to reach out for help, accept, understand, and grow.

© Copyright 2014 All rights reserved. Permission to publish granted by Andrew Mendonsa, PsyD, Suicide Topic Expert Contributor

The preceding article was solely written by the author named above. Any views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.

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  • Mark Noo

    May 27th, 2014 at 3:13 PM

    I waited and waited for the anit-depressants to work. In many years they did. Finally I started moving around and also taking the medication. Things changed at that point. For the better. I cannot believe I survived depression. I should have died. I was hospitalized for a suicide attempt, suffered from alcoholism, endured every manner of indignity.
    No one did anything for me. You have to force the doctors to do the right thing. Depressed people are the least able to help themselves but if they don’t, they will stay right where they are at.
    You are going to have to work up the energy, or possibly the anger, to force people to help you.GY7

  • robbin

    May 27th, 2014 at 3:25 PM

    when i was at my lowest point i didn’t even want to get up out of bed until someone reminded me that not getting out of bed meant no job, no monmey to pay bills, no home
    that woke me up pretty quickly and get me to start actually looking for someone who could help me

  • Julian

    May 28th, 2014 at 3:44 AM

    Just like any physical ailment that you leave untreated, you leave the mental health untended and you will certainly have just as many problems, if not more. Being strong mentally is just as important as anything else in your life, and the small things can often grow into something large if you don’t pay attention to them. It is critical that if you are feeling even just a little off that you might want to find someone to talk about what is going on in your life. If you even have a sounding board this can sometimes help you sort out the issues, or it may give you the insight that you need to say that perhaps it is time to seek even more help to work through some of this.

  • jean a

    May 29th, 2014 at 3:43 AM

    You lose quality time with your friends, with your family, with your job, there is nothing in your life that will NOT suffer if you are not paying attention to the whole self, mind, body, and spirit. You may think that you can get through this alone and for some people this is fine and they can. But for others, a good majority of us as a matter of fact, we need some outside help. THere is nothing wrong with admitting that and then seeking it out.

  • Tonya

    May 30th, 2014 at 3:47 AM

    I guess that we don’t usually think about things in this way, what it is costing us beyond money to have an illness. You have to think of the time that you are losing with friends, and the love that you are losing, by not giving it to yourself or not letting others give you what you need. These are things that we rarely think about when it comes to the costs of any illness, much less mental illness, but they are very real and can have a huge negative impact on your life if they go untreated.

  • saul

    May 31st, 2014 at 5:57 AM

    we are so often worth so much more than what we give ourselves credit for and how we end up treating ourselves. it is worth it to ourselves and to the other people in our lives to recognize, understand, and value our true worth and to really capitalize on that and take care of it

  • Emily

    February 9th, 2016 at 7:02 AM

    I think my dad was abused as a child, and as a result, he didn’t know how to treat his family well and failed miserably at many things in life. I hold him responsible for the consequences of his actions, as well as his mother (for the damage she caused) and his siblings (for not acknowledging and helping him). In the family, there is a culture of silence and avoidance, no matter how big the problem. Instead of acknowledging that a problem exists and doing a family intervention (which I believe could have helped tremendously if done properly), people ignored and minded their own business. What makes this case even more tragic is that among my dad’s siblings are 1 DOCTOR and 2 NURSES (an ER nurse and a PSYCH nurse). As I grew up, people made me believe that the family was good, and my aunts and uncles helped each other out. Not so. When it really mattered, they were unwilling to feel their discomfort and face what needed to be done. It’s cowardice for all involved. Unless you acknowledge a weakness, you will never see the need to change. Thus, the cycle continues. Good luck, family. May your grandchildren and their children avoid suffering.

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