New York Pays a High Price When The City Ignores Mental Health

New data from the NYC Department of Health shows how widespread mental health issues are among New Yorkers. One in five New Yorkers suffer from a mental health issue and at least 8% suffer from symptoms of depression. The department estimates that at any given time, half a million New Yorkers experience depression, but only 40% seek treatment.

The consequences of not seeking treatment are costly. The de Blasio administration estimates mental illness costs New York $14 billion annually in lost economic activity. Depression is cited as the single greatest source of disability in the city.

Last week the de Blasio administration launched its ThriveNYC program. The program consists of 54 initiatives to facilitate greater well-being of New Yorkers. Six principles guide the program:

  • Change the culture – Make mental health everyone’s business
  • Act early – Prevention & early intervention work best
  • Close treatment gaps –Equal access to help for all New Yorkers
  • Partner with communities – Offer solutions informed by cultural context
  • Use data better – Address gaps in data to improve programs
  • Strengthen government’s ability to lead – Facilitate better coordination among agencies

In conjunction with this initiative, NY businesses have taken note. Recently New York City’s first lady Chirlane McCray and activist hedge fund manager Bill Ackman brought business leaders and mental health advocates to the New York Stock Exchange to discuss the impact of mental health on individuals and the city. Lost productivity is often a by-product of depression especially among white collar workers who are reluctant to ask for help.

Large employers like Ernst & Young, which employs over 6,500 employees in the city, have taken the lead in educating employees about the signs and symptoms of depression.   Deloitte started a special program called REACH OUT to build greater awareness about mental health issues among its workforce.

In discussing the ThriveNYC program, Gary Belkin, MD, PhD, MPH, Executive Deputy Commissioner of the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene offered this:

“It fills both a vacuum of vision to align and guide policy, and a vacuum of credible action for realizing that vision. When we measure the huge impact and terribly common frequency with which mental illness and misuse of drugs and alcohol affects families in our city, it is clear we need to provide both.”