Mental health encompasses a person’s emotional, psychological, and social state. Each year, one in five adults experiences a mental illness, and within their lifetimes, one in two will experience a mental illness in the United States. Mental health, substance use, and social needs are closely interlinked—those with poor mental health are in critical need of a holistic approach to care as they are four times more likely to have multiple unmet social needs and over twice as likely to have a substance use disorder. Moreover, youth who have experienced four or more categories of Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) are four to 12 times more likely to have alcoholism, drug abuse, depression, and/or a suicide attempt.

As with physical health, disparities in mental health exist. For example, racial/ethnic minorities have less access to mental health services and are less likely to receive high-quality care. Additionally, adult Blacks are 20 percent more likely to report serious psychological distress than adult whites.

The impact of mental disorders is even more concerning in light of the COVID-19 pandemic, which has stressed our collective psyche. It is estimated that by 2021, half of the US population will experience significant traumatic stress related to the COVID-19 pandemic and, of those, nearly 35 million people could develop a new behavioral health condition (mental or substance use disorder).

Opportunities for innovation we are pursuing include improved ability to predict and prevent suicide, efforts to scale effective care models for those with serious mental illness, new approaches to foster the mental health of children, and innovations that integrate physical, behavioral, and social care. We are also supporting efforts to help individuals with new or preexisting mental health conditions get the care they need during the immediate COVID-19 crisis and its aftermath.

Featured insights


Rebuilding clinician mental health and well-being after COVID-19

– The pandemic has exacerbated existing issues around the mental health of healthcare workers. Providers can learn from other industries... to develop an integrated framework promoting overall well-being.

A holistic approach for the US behavioral health crisis during the COVID-19 pandemic

– COVID-19 creates additional challenges for healthcare leaders seeking to improve behavioral health while offering an opportunity... for meaningful change.

Acknowledged but unaddressed

– The COVID-19 crisis and global mental health

National employer survey reveals behavioral health in a COVID-19 era as a major concern

– McKinsey’s annual employer survey provides insights into one of the most pressing concerns for employers, the behavioral... health of their workforce.

The implications of COVID-19 for vulnerable populations

– McKinsey’s open-access dashboard looks at individuals with physical or behavioral health vulnerability and their risk for... developing COVID-19.

Changing views on mental and substance use disorders: An interview with Patrick Kennedy

– Former congressman, Patrick Kennedy, discusses mental and substance use disorders and how healthcare stakeholders can help these... populations especially during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Returning to resilience: The impact of COVID-19 on mental health and substance use

– As governments race to contain COVID-19, it is important to know the actions society can take to mitigate the behavioral health... impact of the pandemic and economic crisis.

Insights on mental health from a 2019 McKinsey Consumer survey

– McKinsey conducted a national survey to understand the impact of unmet social needs on consumer health outcomes, utilization,... and preferences. Given the link between unmet social needs and lower socioeconomic status, respondents for this survey included adult Medicare and Medicaid beneficiaries as well as low-income adults who were uninsured or who had purchased insurance through the individual market.

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