Mental health involves a person’s social, cognitive, and emotional status. The situation determines how individuals feel, behave, and think. Also, it assists in determining how people make healthy decisions, associate with their peers, and handle stressful situations. Mental health is significant at every life stage, from childhood to adulthood. People often concentrate on physical health, forgetting that mental health is essential to overall health. For instance, depression escalates the risk of several forms of physical health conditions, such as stroke, heart disease, and diabetes. Similarly, chronic illnesses can heighten the risk of mental illness. Besides, low income has a significant impact on mental health. As Park et al. posit, 8.7% of Americans with income below the poverty level tend to develop severe psychological distress (152). This paper explores mental health issues in low-income neighborhoods in Norfolk, VA.
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Low-income neighborhoods in Norfolk often end up in poverty. This situation makes the communities unable to cater to the basic life necessities. Obrien et al. assert that Norfolk, VA, has a 17.77% poverty rate and an average household income of $72 315 (100564). The low-income neighborhoods tend to experience stressors such as uncertainty about money, security, and food. The communities possess particular tendencies like inadequate school systems, high violence and crime rates, poor housing, and limited resources. These aspects are directly connected to poor mental health results.
In Norfolk, VA, individuals living under such conditions tend to worry so much about their lives and how they will survive another day. This situation is because nothing is promised for low-income neighborhoods. They do not have much to save as they cannot even afford the necessities of life. Also, high violence and crime rates make low-income neighborhoods considerably unsafe. People have to watch their backs and worry about their security all the time. Such situations lead to mental health issues such as anxiety and depression. When the lack of security persists, it deteriorates the mental health of members of the neighborhoods.
On a family level, low income can cause various stressors, which can heighten the risk of the mental health conditions of parents. They have to worry about how they will care for their children with the inadequate funds they possess. The parents cannot even meet their own needs but are forced to figure out how their children will survive. Such situations are strenuous for the individuals, resulting in problems such as drug and substance abuse. They believe that using drugs will make them forget their financial state or reduce the pressure they are experiencing. This situation remarkably deteriorates the individuals’ mental health as they constantly worry about how their families will survive the hard times.
Additionally, when a parent’s mental health is in a bad state, it will affect the remaining family members in one way or another. For instance, they will begin viewing their children as a burden. This situation will then lead to parents neglecting their children or mistreating them. Child neglect and abuse are risk factors for mental health issues such as anxiety, depression, and other psychiatric conditions (Zeanah and Humphreys 640). This reasoning implies that children in low-income families are most likely to have poor mental health due to how their stressed parents treat and handle them. The children might begin feeling unwanted and worthless, declining the state of their mental health even further.
On an individual level, low income can result in high stress and significant physiological responses like high cortisol levels and high blood pressure. People tend to worry about their financial state and how they will make it out of the situation to afford basic life necessities for themselves and those who depend on them. When the low-income status fails to change, the physiological responses will interfere with normal brain functioning, leading to adverse long-term mental and physical health outcomes. The mental health consequences include; trauma and victimization, sadness, weakened immune system, suicide and self-harm, relationship problems, social isolation, and legal troubles.
Besides, low-income neighborhoods in Norfolk, VA, tend to experience various hindrances to receiving mental health services and receiving treatment. One of the significant hindrances is the lack of insurance. This aspect prevents members of low-income neighborhoods from receiving treatment because they cannot afford it. Therefore, when individuals develop mental health issues such as anxiety disorder and depression, they do not attempt to seek help because it is above their means. Living with such medical conditions for prolonged periods makes the situation even worse: the people can develop other mental health disorders, or their existing illnesses may worsen.
Secondly, few mental health service personnel work under the managed care program in Norfolk, VA. This situation makes it more challenging for people living in low-income neighborhoods within the city to access mental health treatment at minimized costs (Salami et al. 155). The individuals resolve to live with their untreated conditions, which is greatly dangerous not only to them but also to the people around them, as it might impact them in one way or another. In addition, mental health service providers often need multiple visits before prescribing treatment to their patients. However, this situation may not be easy for low-income workers as they cannot afford all those doctor visits. Due to this, the individuals will shy off from places where they can get treatment, worsening their mental health.
The next barrier to accessing mental health treatment that low-income neighborhoods in Norfolk, VA experience are stigma. The aspect originates from misinformation and ignorance regarding mental illness. Also, some individuals have opposing beliefs or attitudes toward the condition. This situation results in discrimination against individuals with mental health issues. Generally, society tends to look down upon people with mental health conditions, but the situation worsens if people come from low-income neighborhoods. This state implies that individuals suffering from depression, anxiety, and other psychiatric disorder in low-wage communities undergo not only stigma connected to mental health but also that of being poor. This situation results in self-discrimination and a lack of self-confidence. Such states are not suitable spaces for people with mental health conditions to be in as they worsen their illnesses.
Lastly, there is a lack of awareness. Low-income neighborhoods within Norfolk, VA, mainly comprise people with inadequate education. The individuals are not well-educated and, therefore, unaware of various life aspects. For instance, members of low-wage communities might lack awareness of mental health issues and treatments. The individuals might develop psychiatric disorders such as depression and fail to seek help not because they cannot afford it but because they do not know how or where to get help. The primary thing that people living in low-income neighborhoods in Norfolk focus on is trying to improve their lives by working extra hours. They are preoccupied with how they can get necessities such as food and housing and forget crucial aspects like their mental health.
In summary, mental health is crucial to a person’s overall health. However, the situation is worse in low-income neighborhoods in Norfolk, VA. It affects people at different levels: community, family, and individual. Several barriers hinder people from such communities from receiving treatment and mental health services: lack of insurance, few mental health professionals working under the managed care program, stigma, and lack of awareness. Living below the poverty line makes people more vulnerable to developing mental health disorders and avoiding treatment.
O’Brien, Rourke, et al. “Structural racism, economic opportunity and racial health disparities: Evidence from US counties.” SSM-Population health 11 (2020): 100564.
Park, Soo Kyung, Min-Kyoung Rhee, and Min Ah Kim. “Job stress, daily stress, and depressive symptoms among low-wage workers in Korea: the role of resilience.” Asia Pacific Journal of Social Work and Development 29.2 (2019): 149-162.
Salami, Bukola, Jordana Salma, and Kathleen Hegadoren. “Access and utilization of mental health services for immigrants and refugees: Perspectives of immigrant service providers.” International Journal of Mental Health Nursing 28.1 (2019): 152-161.
Zeanah, Charles H., and Kathryn L. Humphreys. “Child abuse and neglect.” Journal of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry 57.9 (2018): 637-644.