The Role of Mental Health in Poverty

The Role of Mental Health in PovertyOn the Mental Health page of the World Health Organization (WHO), there is a quote from Kofi Annan, former Secretary-General of the United Nations. Annan said, “The biggest enemy of health in the developing world is poverty.” This is a strong statement that reflects the need for more mental health awareness in the fight against poverty.

In 2010, the WHO published a report about the importance of mental health in poverty and development. In order to properly help people out of poverty, groups must take mental health into account in all aspects of life and society. Research has shown that poverty negatively affects one’s mental health and affects one’s ability to do day-to-day tasks. As a result, mental health issues occur more often in the poor. For example, depression is more frequent in people of low socioeconomic status. Mental health needs to be addressed with the same focus given to physical health, especially in lower-income and vulnerable communities.

The WHO’s Mental Health policy and service development department works on issues related to disabilities and mental health issues, specifically for those in poverty. Individuals with mental health issues are more likely to be marginalized, so the department is working to publish reports and advocate for more awareness of this subject. One method is via the WHO QualityRights Initiative, which is “reforming mental health services and promoting the human rights of people with psychosocial, intellectual and cognitive disabilities around the world.”

There are other examples of groups working to improve mental health around the globe. For example, “BasicNeeds, an NGO working in the area of mental health and development, assessed economic outcomes of people with mental disabilities in their North India Programme, which promotes livelihoods and treatment and care.” Many groups and people around the world are trying to get countries to ratify the U.N. Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

Mental health needs to be a focus in the development of new and existing societies. Organizations like the WHO need to continue leading the way with its initiatives related to mental health in poverty. If groups focus on mental health and its connection with poverty, then people and their lives will be impacted in a more positive way.

Emilia Beuger

Photo: Flickr