Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Poverty and Mental Health

Being as wealthy as the royals doesn’t preclude you from experiencing mental health problems, but it does lower the likelihood, cushion you in certain aspects and allow you access to a better standard of care more quickly.

Removing the stigma around mental health is important but does little alone. Without services, treatment is still inadequate, and feeling less judged for your health issues means little if you’re faced with a lack of access to talking therapies and nonexistent community support. But the conversation on mental health also needs to examine how the structures of society cause and perpetuate poor mental health.

Poverty, poor housing and debt all have a detrimental impact on the mental health of children and adults. Money can’t buy happiness, but poverty can practically secure stress and misery. For children in particular, the impact of poverty early on increases the lifetime risk of long-term mental health problems. The National Child Development Study found children from the lowest-income families are four times more likely to display psychological problems than children from the richest familiesHomeless children are four times as likely to experience mental health problems as settled families.

Across the UK, both women and men in the poorest fifth of the population are twice as likely to be at risk of mental health problems as those on average incomes, according to the Mental Health Foundation. Poverty increases the likelihood of developing mental illness, and mental illness increases the risk of poverty: combating only one factor does nothing to end the poverty cycle – the two are inextricably linked. 

 Any campaign on mental health should champion combating poverty to stop more people experiencing entirely preventable problems.

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