Each year, Mental Health America (MHA) surveys all 50 states and the District of Columbia for their State of Mental Health Report, which is an annual pulse check on the nation’s behavioral health. This comprehensive report includes statistics on each state’s current rates of mental illness and substance abuse among adults and adolescents, as well as the availability of treatment options.
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The Mental Health America Survey
Using aggregated data, MHA ranks states from best to worst based on overall prevalence of mental illness, rates of substance abuse and accessibility of mental health care for both adults and children. Each state received an overall ranking based on their combined scores of 15 measures, which included scores for adult and youth:
- Experience of mental health conditions like depression, anxiety and bipolar disorder
- Alcohol dependence or illicit drug use
- Serious thoughts of suicide
- Severe major depression episodes
- Who did or did not receive mental health care
States in the top spots of this list have low rates of mental illness overall and good access to mental health care for residents. States which scored low overall have a high prevalence of mental illness and little to no mental health care options for residents.
Beyond tracking specific disparities among each state and region, the MHA annual report ultimately identifies how mental health is valued across America. Some states and regions neglect the importance of mental health. As a result, the rates of mental illness soar and treatment options dwindle. However, there are also American states that prioritize mental well-being and a growing number of regions are enacting progressive policy changes to boost mental health rates.
Where Mental Health Thrives in America
- North Dakota
- South Dakota
In recent years, each of these states ranked in the top five slots, meaning that they maintained low rates of mental illness and provided residents with highly accessible mental health care. According to the MHA data analysis, this lack of movement at the top of the list over time suggests that these states are committed to long-term policies that support a variety of mental health services.
The Best American Regions for Mental Health
According to the most recent survey data, states in three American regions showed the most significant overall ranking improvements, meaning they boosted mental health rates and expanded access to treatment dramatically from the 2017 MHA survey to the 2018 report.
These regions, and their specific divisions, included the:
- Northeast (New England division states specifically)
- Midwest (West North Central division states specifically)
- West (Mountain division states specifically)
In the overall state rankings from the three most recent annual MHA reports, the majority of the highest-ranking states are in New England. Connecticut, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts and Vermont have all enjoyed high-ranking positions in the past few years because of their focus on mental health care.
Although New England may have the best mental health rates overall, almost all states in the Midwest and many states in the West are realizing the importance of mental wellness, and as a result, are rising in the overall state rankings.
Emerging Regions: Where Mental Health Is Improving in America
New England isn’t the only region devoted to mental wellness. From the 2017 MHA report to the 2018 results, there was only one American region in which nearly every state acted to improve mental health: the Midwest.
The Midwest: West North Central Division
Of the Midwestern states, every state in the West North Central division took steps to improve mental health rates and access to care. The 2018 MHA report shows that South Dakota, North Dakota, Minnesota and Iowa all rank within the top 10 states for best mental health rates and treatment options:
- South Dakota (rose from ranking four to two)
- Minnesota (rose from ranking five to three)
- Iowa (rose from ranking seven to six)
- North Dakota (rose from ranking eight to seven)
Other states in the West North Central division that took strides to improve access to mental health care from 2017 to 2018 included:
- Kansas (rose from ranking 21 to 19)
- Missouri (rose from ranking 31 to 30)
- Nebraska (rose from ranking 27 to 18)
The Midwest: East North Central Division
Additionally, almost every state in the East North Central division of the Midwest moved up the list of state rankings. These states include:
- Illinois (rose from ranking 15 to 11)
- Ohio (rose from ranking 26 to 20)
- Wisconsin (rose from ranking 35 to 25)
The only two states in the Midwest that did not improve mental health outcomes for residents were Michigan, which maintained its ranking of 17, and Indiana, which fell from 45 to 48.
The West: Mountain Division
Of the eight states in the Mountain division of the West, all but three rose in the overall state rankings from the 2017 MHA report to the 2018 report. Although these states were close to the middle and end of the overall rankings list, each state improved in mental health outcomes, if incrementally. These states were:
- Arizona (rose from ranking 50 to 49)
- Idaho (rose from ranking 48 to 47)
- Montana (rose from ranking 39 to 27)
- New Mexico (rose from ranking 22 to 21)
- Utah (rose from ranking 40 to 37)
Unfortunately, not every state in the Mountain division takes aggressive steps to make mental health a priority. The Mountain division is also home to Colorado, a state that fell drastically in the overall rankings from 25 to 43, and Nevada, which has ranked last (51) in almost every recent MHA survey.
Additional States Where Mental Health Is Improving
While their respective regions and divisions may not be improving, these states showed significant growth in mental health improvement and access to treatment from the 2017 MHA report to the 2018 report:
- Arkansas (rose from ranking 47 to 35)
- Georgia (rose from ranking 34 to 26)
- Hawaii (rose from ranking 16 to 9)
- Oregon (rose from ranking 49 to 44)
- Rhode Island (rose from ranking 36 to 23)
- Wisconsin (rose from ranking 35 to 25)
Ultimately, the state of mental health in America is improving. Most American states, or 28 out of 51, are taking steps to improve mental health rates and services, according to the 2018 MHA survey. The importance of mental health is gradually being realized in America, one region at a time, and mental health care services can be found in almost every state of the country.
How to Find Mental Health Care in Any American Region
Mental Health America and The Recovery Village believe that to reduce the prevalence of mental illness and substance abuse across the country, effective treatment options must be available and accessible in each state. Fortunately, all regions of America offer some form of mental health care. Regardless of which region you live in, you can still access mental health and substance abuse treatment through several national resources.
- Use this online treatment services locator: Use this interactive map to find doctors, therapists, clinics and rehab centers that can treat substance abuse issues or mental health conditions. You can filter the results extensively to show results by program level, special considerations like gender or age, and payment and insurance options offered.
- Browse recovery resources by zip code: If you struggle with addiction and a co-occurring mental illness, there are support groups, counselors and rehab centers available to you across the country.
- Ask about dual-diagnosis treatment at The Recovery Village: To receive the most comprehensive care for a substance use disorder and co-occurring mental health condition, call The Recovery Village. This renowned network of facilities offers high-quality, dual-diagnosis treatment to help you heal from addiction and mental illness simultaneously.
The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. “Behavioral Health Treatment Services Locator.” (n.d.) Accessed June 2019.
Mental Health America. “Ranking the States.” (n.d.) Accessed June 2019.
Mental Health America. “The State of Mental Health in America.” (n.d.) Accessed June 2019.
Mental Health America. “2017 State of Mental Health in America – Report Overview Historical Data.” (n.d.) Accessed June 2019.
Mental Health America. “Prevention and Intervention B4Stage4: The State of Mental Health in America 2016.” (n.d.) Accessed June 2019.
Worldatlas. “The Officially Recognized Four Regions And Nine Divisions Of The United States.” Updated May 2018. Accessed June 2019.