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Blog Post · October 4, 2023

Californians’ Mental Health Varies across Key Groups

photo - Mother embracing daughter on bed

With World Mental Health Day coming up next week on October 10, it is an opportune time to check in on how Californians view mental health issues. More than eight in ten California adults say there is a mental health crisis in the United States today, according to the most recent PPIC Statewide Survey and similar to a 2022 KFF national survey. What does that mean for Californians personally?

We first asked our survey respondents to rate their own mental health. About half rate their own mental health as either excellent (18%) or very good (31%), about three in ten say it is good (32%), and about two in ten say it is only fair (14%) or poor (4%). While these overall self-assessments are fairly positive, there is quite a lot of variation across demographic, income, and other groups. As California takes new policy action to handle serious mental health illness concerns it is important for policymakers and others to understand which groups are struggling the most.

Notably, African Americans, young adults (ages 18 to 34), and adults with household incomes less than $40,000 are the most likely to describe their mental health as poor, with about one in ten each saying this.

We also asked how well, if at all, Californians feel they are able to cope with things currently affecting their mental health or emotional well-being. The good news: overwhelming majorities of adults say they feel they can cope very (38%) or somewhat well (48%; 12% not too well, 2% not well at all). Still, some demographic groups are struggling more than others when it comes to being able to cope very well: African American, Asian American, younger, and lower-income adults are some of the least likely groups to say they feel they can cope very well.

Can people talk to family and friends about mental health difficulties? Again, the news is generally good: over two in three adults are either very (28%) or somewhat (40%) comfortable in doing this, compared to about three in ten who are not too (23%) or not at all comfortable (8%). Again, there are disparities when it comes to the share saying they feel very comfortable, with Asian Americans, and younger adults least likely across demographic groups to say this.

Do Californians know where else to turn if they are experiencing difficulties? A majority of adults (56%) say they have heard nothing at all about the 988 national mental health hotline that helps connect people with mental health services, such as the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. About half or more across demographic groups say this, with shares rising as age increase.

After reading a short summary about 988, a solid majority of adults say that they are very (21%) or somewhat likely (42%) to call a 988 number if they or a loved one were experiencing a mental health crisis—with majorities across demographic and regional groups saying this.

Although it has faced controversy, California’s CARE (Community Assistance, Recover and Empowerment) Court program has recently gone into effect, aiming to help address California’s overlapping mental health and homelessness issues.

Additionally, in mid-September Governor Newsom’s mental health package—which makes changes to California’s behavioral health care system (Mental Health Services Act, SB 326) and includes a $4.68 billion bond to build new behavioral health beds and housing units (AB 531)—was passed by the state legislature, with the bond set to appear on the March 2024 primary ballot.

In these ways, the state government is taking steps toward addressing what many are calling a widespread mental health crisis. The PPIC Statewide Survey will continue to track views and opinions on this critical topic.


CARE Court Health & Safety Net mental health Political Landscape Statewide Survey