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Note: This article contains sensitive content related to mental health, including depression, anxiety, and suicidal thoughts. If you are affected by any of these issues, please read with care and refer to the resources provided at the bottom of this page for support.
The Mental Health Foundation and The Poverty Alliance have joined forces to tackle poverty as a root cause of mental ill-health. Through an extensive research and policy program, this partnership aims to shed light on the impact of poverty stigma on mental health and examine how social security policies and employment conditions affect the well-being of individuals and communities. By generating evidence-based recommendations, they strive to foster good mental health for all.
So, why is this work so crucial?
Our mental well-being is intricately intertwined with our environment – social, economic, and physical. It is disheartening that in this day and age, we are still grappling with a profoundly unequal society. Mental health problems do not afflict everyone equally. Rather, poverty, inequality, and discrimination magnify the risk for certain individuals.
It is undeniable that poverty plays a significant role in mental health problems. In Scotland alone, over 1 million people and nearly a quarter of all children live in poverty. Studies underscore that adults residing in the most deprived areas of Scotland are twice as likely to experience anxiety or depression compared to their counterparts in affluent regions. Moreover, the risk of suicide is three times higher, and the likelihood of drug-related deaths is 18 times greater in these areas. Alarming research conducted by Public Health Scotland reveals that children from the lowest-income households are four times more likely to encounter mental health issues, which can persist into adulthood.
Living day-to-day with the uncertainty of having enough food, shelter, or warmth is detrimental enough. However, the additional burden of unfair labels and stereotypes faced by those in poverty, such as being labeled lazy, incompetent, or dishonest, takes a toll on their self-confidence and self-esteem. These stigmas contribute to the development of mental health problems.
It is clear that reducing poverty is synonymous with improving mental health. The Mental Health Foundation and The Poverty Alliance are committed to working together to effect change. Their goal is to see a Scotland where poverty rates and inequality are no longer sources of despair, recognizing the pervasive negative impacts these issues have on people’s lives in all domains.
To realize this vision, collaborative efforts are essential. The partnership aims to engage experts, organizations, and individuals directly affected by poverty and poor mental health. Only through collective action involving governments, charitable organizations, the private sector, communities, and those impacted by poverty can a Wellbeing Society be created, one in which everyone can thrive.
As an initial step towards this crucial work, a virtual roundtable event is being held, bringing together experts, individuals with lived experience of poverty and poor mental health, and organizations. The support and embrace of this initiative by various stakeholders across the Third Sector, academia, and government are heartening. Optimism abounds that this joint endeavor will drive tangible and positive change for the people of Scotland.
The leadership of Dr. Pamela Jenkins from the Mental Health Foundation and Fiona McHardy from The Poverty Alliance underscores the commitment and expertise behind this partnership.
If you are currently experiencing thoughts of self-harm or feel unsafe, please dial 999 or visit your nearest A&E department. There, you can request contact information for the nearest crisis resolution team, comprising mental health professionals dedicated to assisting individuals in severe distress. If the content of this article has affected you, please refer to our “get help” page for additional support resources.