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Providing Mental Health care to those in poverty is a Human Rights issue

When considering the daily struggles of those living in poverty, a lack of nutritious food and adequate shelter automatically comes to mind, but the basic needs not being met are much more far-reaching than that and affect every aspect of life.  Beyond a person’s physical well-being, poverty also has a complicated relationship with a person’s mental health – as both a cause and consequence.

For starters, those that live in poverty live in conditions of intense and prolonged stress.  Concerns about money, bills and potential for danger (as living in a better area is often impossible to afford) are ever-present.  Stress affects the body mentally, physically, behaviorally and mentally.  Prolonged stress can lead to heart problems and illness.  It can also lead to anxiety problems, self-alienation, depression and loss of self esteem, among other harmful and hurtful mental conditions.  Beyond that, major depression and mood disorders were much more prevalent in adults and families that are living in poverty.

Sadly, even those that are aware that they have mental health problems are essentially stuck.  For these individuals, they recognize that treatment of their conditions is a necessity but lack the resources to get the treatment needed.   For single parents in poverty, not only are the financials lacking, but the time needed to put towards mental health treatment is not available due to family constraints and responsibilities.  Plus, missing work often means missing wages.  For an individual that already stretches every dollar, the price of transportation to appointments, the appointment itself and prescriptions simply requires too much sacrifice.  Furthermore, attempts to self-medicate be it through drugs or alcohol, only worsen an already tenuous situation.  As the mental condition and eventual addition escalate, the home life of the affected individual disintegrates.

So what can be done?  Research shows that rehabilitation and education can have long-lasting positive effects.   By developing programs that provide psychiatric drugs to those who need them, counsel as to how to use them correctly, and the implementation of community-based programs and rehab, positive results have been well documented.  The research goes on to show that as mental health improved, so did the financial status.  Access to necessary mental healthcare is absolutely essential not only to those in poverty, but to the society at large.

About Adriana Villavicencio

Dr. Adriana Villavicencio is the youngest child of Ecuadorian immigrants. She has moved 29 times in her life, taking her on a journey from California to Bangalore, India, and New York City, where she recently earned a Ph.D. in Education Leadership and works as a Research Associate at New York University. An avid traveler, Adriana has collected experiences in four different continents and 16 different countries. But as a former high school English teacher, some of her fondest memories are those of her brilliant and brilliantly funny students in Brooklyn and Oakland. Adriana has contributed to several publications including the Daily News and, and is a managing editor for the Journal of Equity in Education. She earned a B.A. in English and an M.A. in English Education at Columbia University, and currently serves on the board of Columbia’s Latino Alumni Association (LAACU). She enjoys scary movies with red vines, Sauvignon Blanc, and her Maltese dog, Napoleon.

To learn more about Adriana’s education consulting company, please visit

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author and should not be understood to be shared by Being Latino, Inc.

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