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Intersections: Low SES and Mental Health

Most of you have heard the one in five statistic: that one in five people will develop a mental illness at some point in their lifetime. This is a very general statistic, which is an important way to address mental illness in order to provide the public with the fact that anyone can develop a mental illness, and that no one is immune to them. However, this isn’t to say that certain environments and lifestyles don’t affect people’s likelihood of developing a mental illness. As Ayana has discussed before, certain ethnicities and gender identities often go through a lot more trauma and struggles than others which may put those groups at a higher risk of developing a mental illness. Low socioeconomic status (SES) often takes a toll on a person’s well-being as well, for a variety of reasons.

From education status to place of residence, each part of someone’s life can put unnecessary stress on their mind and body. While striving to put food on the table for a family, it is very hard to afford the luxury to take a day or even a few minutes to check in on yourself. In addition to that, getting help can be expensive, which doesn’t seem fair. Furthermore, with the inefficiencies of the healthcare system completely taking over most political debates these days, it is normal to fear how much it will cost to get help.

It has been studied and proven that certain economic conditions can be a risk factor for mental illness. One study questioned whether it was mental illness that affects socioeconomic status, or socioeconomic status that affects mental health. The conclusion was that socioeconomic status had the ability to negatively impact mental health. It was found that it did not matter what type of economic hardship took place or what type of mental illness someone struggled with, it just made these people have a higher risk of mental illness.

Clearly, money puts a lot of stress on people’s mind. The people most likely were already on the track to developing the mental illness that they have, but going through an economic battle may have triggered the worsening of their symptoms.

Basically, it is important to realize that poverty can be hard to deal with, however, it does not mean you will develop a mental illness. It simply adds another factor to one’s mental space that is clearly not beneficial. So, the study suggested the importance of early intervention strategies that “pay particular attention to the devastating impacts of unemployment, economic displacement, and housing dislocation, including homelessness.”

The graph shown here gives a clear representation of the effects. It shows the percentage of people saying their mental health is excellent. Before looking at the differences, it is saddening that the most “mentally healthy” demographic is still only just over half of the population saying that their mental health is excellent. There is clearly a mental health epidemic in our country. However, to discuss the clear differences: looking at any of the education levels, each group who is earning below $50,000 a year rates their mental health at least 10% worse than those making more than $50,000.

Some of these differences are due to the fear of the bills racking up from getting mental health care, because therapy can often be expensive. Which is why it’s important to know there are free resources, and affordable ones. The National Alliance on Mental Illness ( has many free mental health sessions that are offered in many languages for many different demographics. The Basics sessions allows those in a family with people who are struggling with mental illness to learn the basics of how to help their loved ones. There are Peer-to-Peer groups that allows adults with mental illness to learn and grow together, they also have a Homefront class for people with family members in the military or those who have come back from the military. There are options that are viable and affordable, and not enough people know about them.

For Families

For families with low socioeconomic status, there are stressors put on the children that come from fitting in at school to navigating the future. When teenagers see their friends with the newest and greatest iPhones, jeans, and even notebooks that their family cannot afford, it can take a toll on their comfort levels at school. These are very real insecurities of young adults, and can cause some anxiety. As high school goes on many students of low socioeconomic households also take on a job to help support the family, and although this can be rewarding, it can also be hard to manage while going to school.

This is not to say that not fitting in or having to take on extra work in order to support one’s family is unhealthy, many people have gone through this feeling proud and become very successful in life. However, it can be a source of stress and fear which is often brought up in therapy later as a source of people’s depression or anxiety.

One of the best things to do in order to combat these pressures is to simply talk about it. Making sure that members of the family are aware of what is going on and understand that everything is going to be okay. This will help avoid keeping unnecessary secrets and developing other fears that have no place in the household.

For anyone, finding peace within the battle that is mental health vs economic responsibilities is difficult. Which is why we discussed taking mental health days in our last blog, but we know that is not a simple solution when money is your biggest obstacle. Thus, finding just an hour a day to check in on yourself can be very rewarding. All in all, just know there is help out there and ways to get it, even with very little funds. Talking to someone about what is going on can definitely help take a load off. Lend an ear or do the talking, just know it is okay to be struggling with these obstacles.

AYANA and Low Socioeconomic Status

Ayana wants you to be mentally healthy. Which is why we offer a more affordable therapy option than many large therapy companies. Not only will you save on therapy but because we are a telehealth company, we will work with your schedule to make it convenient to get therapy. Ayana’s mission includes providing therapists to everyone who needs help. Regardless of your socioeconomic status, race, ethnicity, gender, or sexual orientation; we want you to get help if you need it. Ayana will match you with one of the best therapists, who understands what you are going through and help find ways to get through it.

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