Breaking the Stigma: Mental Health Challenges in Low-Income Communities
Let’s face it, therapy and healthcare is expensive, especially in the United States. To many people who are financially struggling already, going to a therapist or trying to prioritze your mental health is a luxery they cannot afford. In this blog we hope to address the stigma surrounding mental health in low income communities and suggest ways to emphasize and prioritize your mental health.
According to an article in Science magazine, people with mental health issues are three times more likely to have financial difficulties (link). Research has established a bidirectional relationship between mental health issues and poverty or low-income. The stress of mental health issues can affect a person’s econimic status, and a low economic status can impact your mental health.
Barriers to Mental Health Services in Low Income Communities
In low income areas there often are shortages of mental health providers. Many people who come from low income communities may work in hourly positions that do not provide benefits like health insurance. Even if they do, often these benefits do not cover mental health services like therapy and wellness trackers. In addition, many people who come from low income backgrounds may not be aware of the benefits of therapy or may be speculative towards opening up their thoughts and experiences to a highly educated community of mental health providers.
One of the biggest barriers to mental health services in these communities can be time. Employers may not be accommodating to low income employees that request breaks in their schedule to visit a therapist. Therapists may not have time slots that fit with the shifts of these employees. Therapists often have waitlists and it can be overwhelming and time consuming to reach out to multiple therapists that can’t fit you into their schedule.
Another barrier to mental health may be a lack of private space. Teletherapy may not be a convenient option for people in low income communities without access to a private room or space to conduct their therapy call. Living with roomates and family can make it difficult to find space to reflect and medidaate to take care of your mental health.
Stigma surrounding mental health challenges in Low income communities
Although much progress has been made to addressing mental health issues everywhere, the stigma still remains. People worry about what their friends or family will think of them reaching out for help with anxiety or depression. Medications to manage mental health are often viewed negatively. Men especially are hesitant to display any weakness or ask for help when they struggle with mental health.
This stimga can increase in groups like low income communities that have limited exposure and education on mental health resources and treatment.
Breaking the Stigma: Strategies and Solutions
Social Media has recently spread more information addressing mental health challenges, treatment and education. Making this information and discussion public can help many low income communities because aware of low cost and easy ways to address mental health issues. Meditations available on youtube, podcasts on mental health, and sharing posts addressing mental health can begin to spread free education on ways to improve your mental health.
Health insurance companies and employers can also break the stigma by including mental health benefits for their employers. Gradually more health plans will pay for portions of therapy costs, often only requiring employees to pay copays to receive treatment. Some low income plans can even provide therapy services for free.
In addition to health insurance benefits, companies can offer tracking programs like VirginPlus that monitor both physical and mental health. Services like Calm, Headspace, and Sanvello, create plans that allow companies to provide subscriptions to these apps to provide meditation and journaling.
Therapists and mental health providers can also challenge the stigma and break barriers to mental health service acces in lower income communities by offering session on a sliding scale according to income level. Instead of requiring clients to pay $100 per session, therapists can offer reduced fee sessions.
There are many organizations that focus on improving mental health access to low income communities.
The Common Health fund has been around since 1918 and focuses on improving healthcare access to people of color, the uninsured and low income.
Anxiety & Depression Association of America is a nonpartisan organzization of mental health progessionals that focus on preventing, treating and curing anxiety disorders and depression.
OpenCounseling is a website and organization that covers all 50 states and lists affordable counseling providers.