The National Institute of Mental Illness (NIMH) in 2010 estimated that 7.7 million Americans suffer from schizophrenia and severe bipolar disorder - approximately 3.3% of the US population when combined. Of these, approximately 40% of the individuals with schizophrenia and 51% of those with bipolar are untreated in any given year.
The consequences of non-treatment are devastating:
People with untreated psychiatric illnesses comprise one-third, or 200,000 people, of the estimated 600,000 homeless population. The quality of life for these individuals is abysmal. Many are victimized regularly. A recent study has found that 28 percent of homeless people with previous psychiatric hospitalizations obtained some food from garbage cans and 8 percent used garbage cans as a primary food source.
People with untreated serious brain disorders comprise approximately 16 percent of the total jail and prison inmate population, or nearly 300,000 individuals. These individuals are often incarcerated with misdemeanor charges but sometimes with felony charges as a result of behaviors caused by their psychotic thinking. People with untreated psychiatric illnesses spend twice as much time in jail as non-ill individuals and are more likely to commit suicide.
Episodes of Violence
There are approximately 1,600 homicides – among the estimated 16,000 total homicides in the U.S. – committed each year by people with untreated schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. According to a 1994 Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Statistics Special Report, "Murder in Families," 4.3 percent of homicides committed in 1988 were by people with a history of untreated mental illness (study based on 20,860 murders nationwide). The Department of Justice report also found:
of spouses killed by spouse – 12.3 percent of defendants had a history of untreated mental illness;
of children killed by parent – 15.8 percent of defendants had a history of untreated mental illness;
of parents killed by children – 25.1 percent of defendants had a history of untreated mental illness; and
of siblings killed by sibling – 17.3 percent of defendants had a history of untreated mental illness.
Our Consequences of Non-Treatment background paper also provides information about victimization, suicide, clinical prognosis, fiscal impacts and incarceration.