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  • In Massachusetts, 1,555,000 adults live with a mental health condition. These conditions can take a serious toll on your daily life. Fortunately, they are treatable. 

    Here’s what you should know about mental health issues in the Bay State and how to find help for yourself or a loved one.  

    Mental Illness In Massachusetts

    In 2020, 260,000 Massachusetts adults experienced a serious mental illness. Serious mental illnesses are mental health conditions that severely disrupt your ability to participate in major life activities, including:

    • major depressive disorder (also called depression)
    • panic disorder
    • obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD)
    • post-traumatic stress (PTSD) 
    • borderline personality disorder (BPD)
    • bipolar disorder
    • schizophrenia 
    • schizoaffective disorder

    Residents with serious mental illness face a higher risk of homelessness. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), 1 in 5 of the 17,975 homeless people in Massachusetts have a serious mental illness.

    Many other Massachusetts adults experience milder mental illnesses, such as mild depression or anxiety. The state’s younger residents also face high rates of mild-to-severe mental illness, with depression affecting 66,000 adolescents ages 12 to 17.

    Massachusetts, Mental Health, & The COVID-19 Pandemic

    Numerous residents of all ages have developed new or worsened mental health issues due to the COVID-19 pandemic. From loneliness to job loss to grief, the pandemic brought a variety of stressors that jeopardized statewide mental health. 

    Substance Abuse

    To cope, some residents turned to drugs. The higher rates of substance abuse led to more drug overdose deaths. Between 2011 and 2021, the state’s overdose death rate increased from 12.7 per 100,000 to 36.8 per 100,000. Most of these deaths involved opioids.

    Suicidal Ideation

    The pandemic also contributed to a spike in suicidal ideation. 

    In 2020, 268,000 Massachusetts residents thought about suicide, while 740 died of it. 

    In 2021, the state’s age-adjusted suicide rate was 8 per 100,000. Nationwide, 46% of suicides occur in people with known mental health conditions. Other suicide risk factors include isolation, poverty, and physical health problems.

    Signs Of Poor Mental Health

    If you think you or someone you love might be struggling with poor mental health, look for these signs:

    • mood swings
    • unusual behaviors
    • frequent anxiety
    • sleep changes
    • appetite or weight changes
    • loss of motivation
    • loss of interest in activities once enjoyed
    • trouble concentrating
    • difficulty keeping up with responsibilities at work, school, or home
    • isolation 
    • thoughts of self-harm or suicide

    How To Find Mental Health Support In Massachusetts

    Anyone who experiences the above symptoms should seek mental health treatment. The most effective treatment options include:

    • therapy, which can help you change unhelpful beliefs and behaviors that threaten your sense of well-being
    • medications, which can ease certain mental illness symptoms and make your recovery easier
    • support groups, which connect you with people who understand your struggles
    • wellness activities, such as journaling, meditating, and exercising

    The majority of Massachusetts residents benefit from outpatient care. That means they regularly visit with therapists, psychiatrists, or other mental health professionals while living at home. 

    Other residents need inpatient care, especially when experiencing a mental health crisis such as suicidal ideation. 


    Unfortunately, many Massachusetts residents have trouble accessing mental health care, particularly those of color, those who live in rural areas, and those who lack adequate health insurance. 

    In 2021, 363,000 Massachusetts adults with mental health needs did not receive care, with 30.1% of them reporting cost as the main barrier. 


    In response, the state has created resources to help connect all residents with effective, affordable care. 

    For example, the Massachusetts Behavioral Health Help Line (BHHL) can help you understand your treatment needs and options. It’s free, confidential, and available 24/7. You can reach it by calling or texting (833) 773-2445 or using the online chat.

    Other mental health resources include:

    • Massachusetts Network of Care, which offers a directory of more than 5,000 mental health treatment programs and organizations throughout the state
    • NAMI Compass (617-704-6264 or 1-800-370-9085), an information and treatment referral helpline from NAMI Massachusetts that’s available Monday through Friday, 9 am to 5 pm
    • SAMHSA National Helpline (1-800-662-4357), a 24/7 helpline that can connect you with treatment programs, support groups, and community-based organizations for substance use disorder and other mental health concerns

    Also, if you have private insurance, you can call the number on the back of your insurance card to find mental health services in your network. 

    If you are insured by MassHealth (Medicaid), contact your primary care physician, or call the member services number on your MassHealth card. If you are insured by Medicare, call your primary care physician or 1 (800) MEDICARE (1-800-633-4227). 

    If you don’t have health insurance, you may be able to find affordable coverage through the Massachusetts Health Connector. This system serves as the state’s health insurance marketplace under the Affordable Care Act (ACA). 

    To learn more about mental health treatment in Massachusetts, please reach out to an Ark Behavioral Health specialist. Our board-certified healthcare providers offer personalized, evidence-based mental health care to help you or your loved one build a fulfilling life.

    Written by Ark Behavioral Health Editorial Team
    ©2024 Ark National Holdings, LLC. | All Rights Reserved.
    This page does not provide medical advice.
    Medically Reviewed by
    Manish Mishra, MBBS
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