Survey says South Dakotans are happy

Amy Poppinga

Amy Poppinga

South Dakota is number one, at least when it comes to mental health. According to a report by Mental Health America, South Dakota is ranked the healthiest when depression and suicide levels were measured.

The report, which was based on two federal surveys, judged states in four areas: the percentage of adults reporting a major depressive episode in the past year, the percentage of adolescents reporting a major depressive episode in the past year, the percentage of adults who said they experienced serious psychological distress in the past year and the average of poor mental health days people reported during the past 30 days.

In South Dakota, 7.31 percent of respondents had a major depressive episode and 11.16 percent experienced serious psychological distress in the past year. As for adolescents, 7.4 percent had a major depressive episode in the past year, and respondents averaged 2.41 poor mental health days in the past 30 days.

These numbers helped South Dakota secure the top spot for the least depression in the nation. Iowa ranked fourth, Minnesota sixth, North Dakota ninth and Nebraska 13th. Kentucky, West Virginia and Utah were the three least healthy states based on mental health according to the report.

David Shern, president and CEO of Mental Health America, said, “The findings of this study underscore the critical need to monitor the mental health status of Americans by examining depressions and the states’ policies that may impact it. Through regular and ongoing measurement of key indicators of depression, we will be able to understand how state public policies impact a population’s depression level and suicide rate and make adjustments to benefit the millions of Americans affected by depression.”

Overall, depression affects more than 21 million Americans annually and leads the causes of disability in the nation for persons ages 15 to 44. Depression usually occurs in conjunction with several other medical illnesses like heart disease, cancer and chronic pain and is associated with poorer health status.

According to Shern, factors that influence mental health are biology and environment, and states can help improve their citizens’ mental health status by instituting policies that provide increased access to mental health treatment.

In addition to contributing to poorer health status, depression is the principal cause of the 30,000 suicides in the U.S. each year.

Low depression rates did not necessarily mean low suicide rates, though. South Dakota’s age-adjusted suicide rate of 14.85 put the state in 40th place. The District of Columbia had the lowest suicide rate of 5.32, which is 300 percent lower than South Dakota’s rate.

For their age-adjusted suicide rates, Nebraska, Minnesota, North Dakota and Iowa ranked tenth, 13th, 20th and 24th, respectively.

Even with low ratings, states can do better. “Despite the fact that some states do better than others on rates of depression and suicide, no state can be satisfied with its current status,” Shern said. “These rates can be driven lower by encouraging state policies designed to improve coverage, end discriminatory practices in insurance and assure that qualified mental health professionals are available to serve everyone in need,” he said.