Poverty and Homelessness
Updated: Jul 25, 2019
Recent studies have found that an increase in Social Security income can significantly impact mental health status. Individuals with a household income of less than $20,000 per year showed an increased likelihood of incident mood, anxiety, and/or substance use disorders in comparison with those with an income of $70,000 or more per year.
Poverty can be a serious and influential factor in anyone’s life, especially a child’s development. Among children who are 17 or younger, poverty is associated with lower school achievement, worse attention-related outcomes, behavioral issues, higher rates of crime, and depressive and anxiety disorders. Although not as influential among children, poverty can also lead to mental health issues as an adult. Poverty in adulthood is typically linked to depressive disorders, anxiety disorders, psychological distress, and suicide.
These relationships also hold true for those of the homeless community. According to a 2015 assessment by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, approximately 565,000 people were homeless on a given night in the United States. Of those, at least 25% were seriously mentally ill, and 45% had any mental illness and/or substance use disorder. By comparison, only 4% percent of U.S. adults have been diagnosed with a serious mental illness.
Most researchers and mental health professionals can explain that the connection between homelessness and mental illness is a two-way relationship, in which one of two situations can occur. The first is that the individual’s mental illness may lead to cognitive and behavioral problems that make earning a stable income or participating in daily activities unlikely. The second situation is that homelessness can be a dehumanizing traumatic event that can influence a person's cognitive and behavioral tendencies. The precarious nature of their environments can significantly increase the probability of developing a mental illness after they have been introduced to the impoverished lifestyle.
Poorer individuals also have less opportunity and access to mental health services than those of higher socioeconomic statuses which sometimes leads to self medication in the forms of drugs and alcohol. Coping mechanisms like therapy or medication is often not an option for those with low income. Without proper services to aid their mental health, problems can worsen or lead to new concurrent mental illnesses. To make these necessities of access to the low income and homeless community, a lot of great changes must be made. It requires changes in policies, workforce development, health care financing, community service system infrastructure, clinical workflow, provider practices, and more.
AYANA is an affordable, accessible, and inclusive service that strives to aid all of those in need. Our mission is de-stigmatize mental health in American society and to make therapy accessible to marginalized communities.