Health professionals, politicians and others have long debated whether mental health is a health issue.

Now, a report published by the US government’s National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) argues that the mental health profession has done a poor job of communicating that mental health problems are not, in fact, problems of substance abuse and substance abuse disorders.

The report, released on Thursday, has been met with criticism from mental health professionals who say it is overly simplistic to draw causal connections between mental health and substance use disorders.

In a statement, the report’s author, Dr Maria Fauci, said the US is one of only a few countries where the prevalence of substance use disorder is higher than the national average.

The prevalence of both mental illness and substance misuse disorders are higher in America than anywhere else in the world, she said.

“Mental health care professionals often assume that mental illness is not a serious, chronic condition that requires intensive and costly treatment, as other health care systems do,” she wrote in the report.

“Instead, mental illness often requires an outpatient treatment program, which is not feasible in most states.”‘

Too much emphasis’ Mental health professionals have often argued that stigma associated with mental illness has contributed to a lack of mental health services and the spread of the opioid epidemic.

The NIMH report found that there was “an overemphasis on stigmatisation of mental illness, which has not been adequately addressed in mental health policy and practice”.

It also said that while some mental health providers do have a focus on substance use, there was too much emphasis on mental health as a “disease”.

Dr Faucy said stigma and the way it is communicated have been a major barrier to understanding mental health, particularly in the United States.

“There is a real stigma associated in the mental healthcare profession about mental health,” she said in a phone interview from Washington, DC, where she is attending a conference.

“So a lot of mental healthcare professionals are very, very afraid of talking about substance use.”

‘Very limited’ coverage of mental illnesses in the media Dr Foucie said there were “fewer” health professionals with access to comprehensive mental health coverage than they used to be, and she said that stigma was still a major issue.

“I think that there’s a very, really limited awareness about mental illness in the US media,” she added.

She said mental health treatment needed to be better trained and more culturally sensitive.

“You need to start talking to a wide range of people to make that transition from being told that you have a mental health condition to being told you have substance use,” she told Al Jazeera.

The researchers used data from the National Epidemiologic Survey on Alcohol and Related Conditions (NESARC), which covers more than 7 million Americans.

The data includes information on a wide array of conditions including substance use and mental health.

“A lot of stigma and discrimination against mental illness exists in the public domain, and the media coverage of it is very limited,” Dr Fucie said.

She called for more comprehensive coverage of the mental illnesses.

“We need to have a conversation about how to move away from the stigmatisation and stigma-driven stigma of mental disorders, and towards the empowerment of mental individuals.”

Dr Faece, who has published a number of research articles on mental illness for academic journals, said that there are “many” people who suffer from mental illnesses, but the number is often overlooked.

“If we are going to build a national conversation about mental healthcare, it needs to start with the people who are suffering from mental illness,” she warned.

“The stigma surrounding mental illness needs to be lifted, not diminished.”