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Mental Health - Too Poor For Treatment?

Posted by Brian Spence on Nov 27, 2017 8:00:00 AM

Mental Health, Behavioral HealthWith mental illness, in the best circumstances, waking up in the morning can be a struggle when you suffer from any kind of mental distress. Whether it is PTSD, Bipolar or depression, sometimes putting on your shoes seems daunting and tedious. Having to awaken and shower and dress and go to work can seem impossibly difficult. As if wading through mud, you would make your way to your car, flop into the driver's seat and go to work, only to return in the evening, sludge through dinner and then repeat.

For many, there is a weekly (sometimes bi-weekly) reprieve: an appointment with a therapist or social worker. Thankfully, they have a sounding board and – if they are fortunate – someone who is qualified and available to help them maneuver through the blur of the days.

However, while 1.2 percent of Americans above the poverty level suffer in some way with serious psychological distress, the number increases to 8.7 percent for those who have an income below the federal poverty level. For those individuals, not only is mental health care difficult to receive, but nearly impossible to retain. No matter what your political views, numbers don't lie. 

  • Numerous studies have shown repeatedly and consistently that mental illness is a problem with the poor, who cannot typically afford appropriate mental health care.
  • According to the National Coalition for the Homeless, mental illness was the third largest cause of homelessness, with 20 to 25 percent of the homeless population in the US suffering from some form of mental illness.
  • The problem this creates is a vicious circle: even when provided with shelter, these individuals are not likely to be able to sustain their home without continued care.

The result? A cycle of abuse that contributes to more mental health problems which leads to another generation of the same cycle.

  • Parents who are struggling with minimum wage jobs and/or drug addiction or their own mental illnesses, are more likely to neglect and/or abuse their children which, of course, leads to more problems.
  • The US Department of Labor and Statistics says there are more than 500,000 mental health professionals in the US but, for the poor or impoverished, this much-needed care is not as easily obtained.
  • Although there are many programs available and clinics that do provide care, establishing and maintaining a trusting and open relationship with someone who suffers from PTSD, Bipolar or Anxiety can be a tremendous barrier to overcoming these challenges.
  • In this way, working for a public clinic that provides free or low-cost care, Social Workers experience a number of challenges, largely because of funding issues.
  • Research from the CDC indicates that, as income levels (socioeconomic status, or SES) decrease, incidents of mental illness disorders increase, respectively.
  • Because of the large need for continued care in the poor sector, many agencies struggle with turn-over.
  • Part of this can be because of personal factors but often, it is the result of organizational failure. Specifically, high caseloads that bring about burn-out within the social work circle.

Experts suggest a number of new integrative approaches to help remedy this epidemic of poverty and mental illness. Specifically, addressing not only mental but physical health. With serious mental illness costing Americans more than $190 billion per year, investing in the health and care of the poor seems a worthy and important cause to address this ongoing challenge.

To learn more about this and related topics, visit the Mental and Behavioral Health section of our blog. And, if seeking to help break this cycle, check out our current job postings in this industry.


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Topics: Mental Health, Behavioral Health

Staffing Plus is a premier healthcare staffing firm that provides temporary, per diem, temp-to-hire and permanent Staffing Solutions for Behavioral Health, Education, and Healthcare settings. We have leveraged decades of experience to assist organizations with the challenges of managing their HR and Recruiting needs.