Poverty and How it Affects Mental Health

Poverty constitutes having less of what is needed to live a healthy life. This includes a job that pays less than minimum wage or no job at all, no health insurance, they may have no home or their home is not safe for humans to live in, not having clean or clothes with no holes in them, or not even having food all. Poverty can take many forms but it all boils down to not having the essential resources for living a healthy life.

Poverty can have adverse results in a person’s life. It can lead to a person being physically unsafe, at risk for different diseases, traumatic situations and even death. One of the most overlooked variables of poverty is mental illness. The stressors brought by poverty induce survival-type behaviors and thoughts. These stressors deplete the mental and emotional energy of people in poverty who are preoccupied with what will be there next meal, will they be safe when they come home, will they have a home, and so on.

There is a strong correlation between mental illnesses and people who live in poverty. Though, poverty can exacerbate mental illnesses, it does not necessarily cause them. On the other hand, sadly, there is an overwhelming amount of people who have mental illnesses that live in poverty. In his article, Socioeconomic Status and Mental Illness: Tests of the Social Causation and Selection Hypotheses, Christopher G. Hudson states that “The poorer one’s socioeconomic conditions are, the higher one’s risk is for mental disability and psychiatric hospitalization.” This is due to a plethora of reasons that are entangled with the lack of sufficient economic means as well as the necessary, and affordable, treatments. People within poverty have a strong prevalence of major depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, general anxiety disorder, alcohol dependence or drug dependence, between other disabilities and mental illnesses. Rebeca A. Clay, in her article Fighting Poverty offers extensive information regarding other factors that are intertwined with poverty.

Poverty can have a much more detrimental effect on children who are still developing. The stress from lack of food, physical safety, and emotional regulation has lasting effects on the child’s cognitive process and their emotional development. It can cause longstanding trauma as well as substance abuse, problems in school and in learning.  Perri Klass, in their article Poverty as a Childhood Disease, further explains these problems and other information related to poverty.

Helping these families and individuals is of the utmost priority ; not because it benefits us but because they are people and they deserve to have a healthy and safe life. There are several programs available for people in poverty such as the Housing Opportunity and Services Together (HOST), where they work towards a holistic approach in getting people out of poverty and providing them mental health.

As for our part, we can spread the word and advocate for more funding in areas that help people within poverty. Sharing resources, support and information can go a long way in helping others. Getting educated and helping out should always be in the forefront of our work even if it is simply sharing resources.

Go out. Help others. Make a difference.

Signing off,

TWS

P.S. The Global Issues page offers more facts regarding poverty. There is also the Mental Health, Poverty and Development fact sheet and The Florida Council for Mental Health Fact Sheet.

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