Daily Progress, Jacksonville, TX

Local News

May 3, 2013

Holding Out Hope: Poverty affects mental health

JACKSONVILLE — As many readers already know, May is Mental Health Awareness Month.

At HOPE, we know that poverty has a direct impact on an individual’s mental health. Consider the following findings taken from one recent medical study pertaining to this subject.

– Hunger is a major concern in underprivileged communities. A deficient diet results in poor nutrition resulting in health problems, stress and anxiety.

– Low paying occupations do not offer health care benefits or offer it at a steep rate.

Since health care benefits are inclusive of most welfare programs, a welfare recipient may elect to remain on the program for these added benefits. Moreover, to supplement their income, welfare recipients may turn to “counter or illegal work” to supplement their income.

This results in stress and guilt contributing to their depression.

– Research has shown that approximately 83% of impoverished women have been physically or sexually abused.

– Impoverished women may remain in social networks that are as much a cause of stress as they are of support.

This may contribute to loneliness and depression.

– Poverty affects marital relationships by increasing conflicts, resulting in a loss of mental and emotional support.

Relationships between parents and their children are equally compromised.

– Impoverished communities have limited resources available to them and the few that they do have rarely include mental health resources.

– Poverty affects self-esteem and confidence resulting in feelings of loss of control, an inability to manipulate one’s surroundings, and inadequate feelings when dealing with others.

The result is often overburdened and unsuccessful coping strategies.

– Residents of deprived communities are exposed to greater levels of aggressive behavior than middle class communities.

This contributes to feelings of loneliness and lack of control resulting in depression.

– The inability of financially strapped parents to provide their children with basic necessities results in feelings of inadequacy and loneliness.

– Many within poorer communities feel they are expendable.

– Discrimination, however brief, may result in poor performance on cognitive tasks, increased stress levels, low self-esteem, anxiety and anger.

Unfortunately, this is not an all-inclusive list.

There are numerous other situations and factors that directly affect the mental health of our poor.

So, what can we do?

As a society, we can assist by becoming advocates of mental health for vulnerable populations by:

1) Valuing each individual; affirming their potential and assuring them that no one has all of the answers. We each bring strengths to learning and the decision-making process. We must tap into these resources, strengths and skills when building a foundation of knowledge.

2) Spotlighting one’s stren-gths and reminding all of their achievements and the possibility of happiness through further achievement and the fulfillment of their ambitions.

3) Becoming political and economic advocates for the poor by supporting programs that promote the mental health and wellbeing of all individuals with a focus on those who need our help most.

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