Arkansas ranks high in mental health problems

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (KTHV) - University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS) said the natural state ranks in the top 15 states in the country in the number of suicides and attempts each year, and when it comes to general mental health, we don't do much better.

Dr. Erick Messias, with the UAMS Walker Family Clinic, said substance abuse and mood disorders are the most common mental health problems Arkansans face.

"There is an increased perception that bipolar disorder is becoming more prevalent or people are coming to treatment more. We don't know exactly why but we are seeing much more than we use to," said Dr. Messias.

When it comes to suicide, Arkansas teenagers are the most at risk. Dr. Messias said bullying, substance abuse, sexual abuse and promiscuity increase that risk dramatically.

A study conducted by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) said 50% of Arkansas teens have admitted to having sexual intercourse, 8% of them before the age of 13. 19% of sexually active Arkansas teenagers have had more than 4 partners. The most shocking statistic shows 10% of Arkansas teenagers have been raped.

The three most abused substances by Arkansas teenagers are marijuana, prescription drugs and inhalants. Teens who are bullied in person or cyber bullied are three times more likely to have suicidal ideations.

Dr. Messias said those three risk factors put Arkansas at the top when it comes to teen suicides.

"About 10% of Arkansas high school students report having made a suicide attempt. 10%. That's higher than the national average of about 8%," said Dr. Messias.

Though there is a great need for mental health services for children and adolescents, Dr. Messias said there are not enough clinics to serve those in need.


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