NYC: 1.1M Nonwhites with Mental Issues

New York City is home to around 1.1 million—and probably more—nonwhites with serious mental health problems, including Major Depressive Disorder (MDD), schizophrenia, and drug abuse, an analysis of a new report from the city’s health department has revealed.


The report, “Understanding New York City’s Mental Health Challenge,” (download from  NYC government here), also details the financial burden generated by such a mass of mentally disordered people.

According to the report, at least one in five (or 20 percent) of adult New Yorkers is likely to experience a mental health disorder in any given year.

In practical numbers, this means that 20 percent of New York City’s 8.5 million people are affected. This works out to 1.7 million people with mental health issues.

According to the US Census Bureau, 33 percent of New York City’s population is “white” (a dubious figure, given the US government’s notoriously inaccurate system of racial classification), and transposing that percentage onto the 1.7 million figure, it is likely that the number of nonwhites affected by mental disorders is 1,139,000.

This is probably an underestimate, given the US Census Bureau’s errors, but assuming the “33 percent white” figure is accurate, then there are at least 1.1 million nonwhites with mental disorders in the metropolis.

According to a 2007 article in the International Journal of Epidemiology, titled “Race and risk of schizophrenia in a US birth cohort: another example of health disparity?”(Volume 36, Issue 4, Pp. 751–758), prepared by Michaeline Bresnahan et al from the Department of Epidemiology, Mailman School of Public Health, New York City, blacks are “about 3-fold more likely than whites to be diagnosed with schizophrenia.”

That papers attempted to “equalize” the data by factoring in alleged racism and lack of access to facilities, but ultimately concluded that the “The data indicate[s] substantially elevated rates of schizophrenia among African Americans in comparison with whites in this birth cohort.”

In its report, the NYC Health Department said that “Latina adolescents feel disproportionately sad or hopeless and are more likely to attempt suicide,” while “African Americans are more likely to be given a diagnosis of schizophrenia and other psychotic disorders.”

Furthermore, the report said, “diagnosis rates for depression and anxiety among adult Latinos in recent years are relatively comparable to whites; there are large variations within Latinos. People of Puerto Rican descent were 54% more likely to have more severe depressive symptoms than people of Mexican descent.”

The report counted drug abuse as one of the symptoms of mental health issues, and reported that “substance misuse are among the leading causes of premature death in every neighborhood in New York City.

“Each year, 1,800 deaths and upwards of 70,000 emergency room visits among adults aged 18 to 64 can be attributed to alcohol use” and that “unintentional drug overdose deaths outnumber both homicide and motor vehicle fatalities.”

Furthermore, the report said, the “misuse of illicit and prescription drugs and alcohol in NYC together cost approximately $1 billion in criminal justice expenditures annually.”

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