A new report reveals that 45.9 million or almost 20 percent of the adult American population experienced mental illness in the past year, but a majority of them refrained from getting medical help due to lack of insurance coverage.

What's more disturbing is that the rate of mental illness was found to be more than double in the age group of 18 to 25 than those above 50, according to the survey conducted by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). The problem is far more prevalent among adult women compared to men (23 percent versus 16.8 percent).

"Mental illness is not an isolated public health problem. Cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and obesity often co-exist with mental illness and treatment of the mental illness can reduce the effects of these disorders," SAMHSA administrator Pamela Hyde said in a statement.

The recent economic downturn has only added to this growing problem, which experts define as having a diagnosable mental, behavioral, or emotional disorder. It costs the country more than $200 billion every year, according to data from the National Institute of Mental Health.

By 2020, major depressive illness is feared to become the leading cause of disability in the world for women and children. The report also noted that an estimated 8.7 million American adults had serious thoughts of suicide in the past year - among them 2.5 million made suicide plans and 1.1 million attempted suicides.

Social stigma attached to the condition also discourages many patients and their families to seek help that eventually deteriorates patient's health and overall chances of recovery. It is de anticipated that mental illness accounts for more disability in developed countries than any other group of illnesses, including cancer and heart disease.

However, on the positive side, newer treatments with proper counseling can successfully manage the problems associated with mental illnesses. It is reported that almost 350 medicines are currently being developed in the U.S. to help patients and their families deal with the crisis.