SHARE US


Quick Links

Sign In

Lose something?

Enter Username or Email to reset.

Sign Up

Painted Brain | Poverty And Mental Illness In America: An Editorial
We're bridging communities and changing the conversation about mental illness using arts and media.
post-template-default single single-post postid-2672 single-format-standard _masterslider _msp_version_3.0.6 full-width full-width cp_hero_hidden poverty-and-mental-illness-in-america-an-editorial cp_header_absolute none cpcustomizer_off megamenu no-header cp_breadcrumbs_visible unknown wpb-js-composer js-comp-ver-5.0 vc_responsive

Share

  • February 25, 2016

Poverty and Mental Illness in America: an editorial

The issue of poverty in America is far more complex than a simple lack of food, money, and housing. It extends to (and results from) the absence of meaningful employment, health care and housing. The reason or reasons for the lack of these basic necessities may be one of many. In this essay, I have chosen to focus on only one of these: mental illness. While poor mental health often leads to poverty, the state of poverty itself may lead to a further decline in mental health.

Having a mental illness can be a factor in difficulty obtaining meaningful employment. According to NAMI (The National Alliance on Mental Illness), in January 2014 California had a 90% unemployment rate among people living with some form of ongoing mental illness.” (1) “One of the best steps in recovery from mental illness is a job,” (2) NAMI’s website states. As someone with an ongoing mental illness myself, I can attest that becoming symptomatic for extended periods of time has caused me to become unemployed. Once my symptoms abate, it’s difficult to find work again because of these long periods of unemployment. This situation becomes a cycle, triggering my mental health symptoms all over again. I am also far less likely to gain meaningful employment if I do not have an education, and getting an education while dealing with an ongoing mental illness can be difficult. My illness began in my late teens/early twenties, at an age  when most people are pursuing a college degree. For people living at the poverty line, financial issues can be a serious roadblock to pursuing a higher education. I was very fortunate to have a family willing to back my education later in life, but not everyone is that lucky.

Having a mental illness may be a factor when trying to secure adequate health care. People with a mental disability are already financially burdened with the necessity of seeing a therapist, a psychiatrist, and often a case worker, as well as having to take psychotropic medications. Poverty often means inadequate health care as well, which makes dealing with these other factors much more difficult.

“People with mental illness die, on average, twenty-five years younger than the rest of the population.” (3) “Seventy-five percent of people with mental illness use tobacco in some form, compared to twenty-two percent of the general population.” (4).”Many are also more sedentary and eat less healthy due to the combination of living below the poverty line and due to side effects from psychiatric mediations, especially some anti-psychotics.” (5)  

I myself have had bouts of high blood sugar and elevated cholesterol from taking the drug, Seroquel.

Having a mental illness also means living with an increased risk of homelessness or being unable to afford safe and adequate housing. Many living with mental illness are on disability such as SSI or SSDI benefits. Those dependent on SSI income receive about eleven thousand dollars a year, well below the poverty line. Therefore, it can be more difficult to find housing in a safe neighborhood, or find affordable housing at all, and while some people on SSI qualify for section eight housing or live at home, they represent the more fortunate few among many.

Like many people living below the poverty line, those with mental illness may become stuck in a vicious cycle that greatly alters the overall quality of their lives.

                      

 (1) “NAMI: National Alliance on Mental Illness | Mental Illness: NAMI Report Deplores 80 Percent Unemployment Rate; State Rates and Ranks Listed-Mode.” NAMI: National Alliance on Mental Illness | Mental Illness: NAMI Report Deplores 80 Percent Unemployment Rate; State Rates and Ranks Listed-Mode. National Alliance of the Mentally Ill, 2014. Web. 8 Nov. 2015.

(2) “NAMI: National Alliance on Mental Illness | Mental Illness: NAMI Report Deplores 80 Percent Unemployment Rate; State Rates and Ranks Listed-Mode.” NAMI: National Alliance on Mental Illness | Mental Illness: NAMI Report Deplores 80 Percent Unemployment Rate; State Rates and Ranks Listed-Mode. National Alliance of the Mentally Ill, 2014. Web. 8 Nov. 2015.

(3) Torgovnick, Kate. “Why Do the Mentally Ill Die Younger?” Time. Time Inc., 3 Dec. 2008. Web. 8 Nov. 2015.

                        

(4) Torgovnick, Kate. “Why Do the Mentally Ill Die Younger?” Time. Time Inc., 3 Dec. 2008. Web. 8 Nov. 2015.

                   

(5) Torgovnick, Kate. “Why Do the Mentally Ill Die Younger?” Time. Time Inc., 3 Dec. 2008. Web. 8 Nov. 2015.

  

Jamie Siegel is a group facilitator for Painted Brain and this is her first contribution to Painted Brain News.

  • Categories:

  • Editorial

Post A Comment