Mental Health and Poverty
By Aarthy Iyengar
Lately, there have been so many awareness campaigns in the area of Mental Health and no doubt, these campaigns have produced some change and knowledge among the masses. Though stigma still exists, a considerable number of the population have accepted Mental Health issues as legitimate, normal and something not to be ashamed of. Nonetheless the poor, that is, the economically deprived communities do not fall into this circle. In a world where even the physical healthcare has not reached the masses, Mental Health certainly gets relegated to the back seat. People who have concerns regarding the next meal often do not prioritise caring about stress.
Certain communities remain away from Mental Health, in terms of awareness, knowledge and affordability. Mental Health issues are the same for everyone. Every person regardless of the gender, social strata etc. has a chance of suffering mental instability. However, there is a huge gap regarding the availability of help. Psychiatry and counselling related fields are infants and there are very few professionals in the field in proportion to the sufferers. The demand thus created leads to high prices for their help. The professionals are nowhere to be blamed, the discipline itself is new and costly. Most of the aspiring psyschologists have to go to foreign countries to pursue higher education and hence have to spend a lot which makes their stand, that they deserve so much, justified. The profession demands a proper set up such as a clinic with proper lighting, air condition and sometimes another professional to supervise sessions (who in turn have to be paid). All of this leads to a spike in expense.
Now, neither the poor can be blamed for not reaching out, hence the gap.
Most of the awareness and knowledge creating programmes are on social media . These
programs have to both be increased as well as brought to the streets. The people who do not have a roof over their heads or a blanket to cover themselves in the winters, may not have a smart phone, further a social media account. The Mental Health enthusiasts have to
hence, get on the streets with hoardings and posters while talking to people who cannot read.
Mental Health issues have always existed among the poor and the rich, men and women,
adolescents and the elderly, however, awareness is a relatively new phenomena. The demand and the gap can be reduced by the efforts of the people, the Universities and the Government. More and more people should take up Mental Health related professions, all the colleges and universities world wide must provide courses in psychology and the Governments must come up with legislations promising Mental Health access as among the Fundamental Rights to the citizens. When such level of awareness is created and many more professionals come up, this gap would certainly be reduced and the affordability issue would diminish. All of this, though,
would take a lot of time!