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Painted Brain | The Connection Between Mental Health And Income
We're bridging communities and changing the conversation about mental illness using arts and media.
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The Connection Between Mental Health and Income

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Young man covered in sticky notes, work overload

When looking at all mental health disorders, one risk factor that is commonly found is financial difficulties. It makes sense that mental health would be related to income, based on the fact that our mental health includes our emotional, psychological, and social well-being. However, it is important to recognize how large of a role one’s income can have on their overall well-being

One U.S. study that examined the relationship between income, and mental health disorders, among over 34,000 noninstitutionalized adults. The study found that low levels of household income are associated with several life-time mental health disorders and suicide attempts. In addition, it found that a reduction in household income is associated with increased risk for incident mental health disorders and suicidal behavior among low-income individuals. 

This study is just one of many that documents the ways in which mental health and financial security are strongly linked. It is an important relationship to look at because it works both ways. Financial stresses can negatively impact one’s mental health, and experiencing a mental health difficulty can exacerbate financial stresses. Almost one in five (18%) people with mental health problems are in problem debt. People experiencing mental health problems are three and a half times more likely to be in problem debt than people without mental health problems (5%). 

With new economic difficulties put on individuals caused by the effects of Covid-19, people need to be weary of how this may affect their mental health. There are a multitude of signs, cognitive, emotional, and physical that are caused by financial stress. 

Cognitive symptoms:

  • Memory problems
  • Inability to concentrate
  • Poor judgment
  • Seeing only the negative
  • Anxious or racing thoughts
  • Constant worrying

Emotional symptoms:

  • Depression or general unhappiness
  • Anxiety and agitation
  • Moodiness, irritability, or anger
  • Feeling overwhelmed
  • Loneliness and isolation
  • Other mental or emotional health problems

Physical symptoms:

  • Aches and pains
  • Diarrhea or constipation
  • Nausea, dizziness
  • Chest pain, rapid heart rate
  • Loss of sex drive
  • Frequent colds or flu

It is pivotal to highlight each of these signs because oftentimes when it comes to financial stress, symptoms can quickly emerge. Due to the difficult economic times that the U.S. is currently in, individuals should be cautious of how financial changes in their lives are affecting their overall well-being. 

In addition to evidence regarding the relationship between mental health and income, there is evidence showing the dire need for mental health treatment for those who cannot afford it.  Although this issue has been ongoing, the good news is that there are now free resources available for those who may be experiencing both financial and mental health difficulties

Free Mental Health Resources:

  • National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 
    • A free, confidential crisis hotline that is available to everyone 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The Lifeline connects callers to the nearest crisis center in the Lifeline national network. These centers provide crisis counseling and mental health referrals.
      • 1-800-273-TALK (8255)
  • Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration: National Helpline (SAMHSA)
    • A free, confidential, 24/7, 365-day-a-year treatment referral and information service (in English and Spanish) for individuals and families facing mental and/or substance use disorders.
      • 1-800-662-HELP (4357)
  • Crisis Text Line 
    •  Available 24 hours a day, seven days a week throughout the U.S. The Crisis Text Line serves anyone, in any type of crisis, connecting them with a crisis counselor who can provide support and information.
      • Text “HELLO” to 741741

It is evident that the last thing individuals struggling with financial difficulties need to worry about when seeking out help is spending more money. Recognizing the signs of chronic stress, and having access to a few trustworthy resources is a good place to start

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