Every year hundreds of thousands of Americans suffer from mental health problems. Disorders such as depression, alcoholism, anxiety and schizophrenia collectively afflict more individuals than certain health problems that captivated far more public attention, such as cancer and AIDS, for example. A recent prospective epidemiological investigation found that 9% of the male population and 25% of the female population were treated for depression by 3 0 years old (Angst, 1992). In Roscoe and Skomski’s (1989) survey of over 1,600 adolescents, approximately 20% were classified as lonely. Among college freshmen, the point prevalence of bulimia is 4% (Pyle, Neuman, Halvorson, & Mitchell, 1991), a figure that may be an underestimate as rates of eating disorders are higher among those who choose not to participate in surveys (Beglin & Fairburn, 1992). Lifetime prevalence estimates of alcoholism in the United States range from 9% to 14% (Anthony, Warner, & Kessler, 1994; Helzer et al., 1990). Given the pervasiveness of mental health problems in society, it is likely that most people at some point in their lives, will have a relationship-be it romantic, family, occupational, or professional-with someone suffering from a mental health problem (and/or suffer from a mental health problem themselves).
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