So many factors go into our mental health and well-being. Environment, social ties and family dynamics, access to green space, physical health, leisure time, diet and nutrition, financial peace of mind, career situation, and sense of ability to influence one’s own fate all play a role. If you re-read that list, you’ll notice that many have socioeconomic ties. Access to education, career preparation and a good job give people greater control in creating homes and lives that are safe, healthy, and uplifting. Conversely, lack of those resources may make one feel hopeless and downtrodden, not to mention stressed and anxious.
One particular group that’s identified as at-risk for mental health concerns is very specific: urban black fathers who are unmarried. A study from the University of Michigan has found that this group of men is 50% more likely to be depressed than their male counterparts in the general population. Unmarried men living in urban areas are also more likely to be low income and to have completed a low level of education. These are not only depression factors in themselves, but their unfortunate overlap is that people of lower income levels are less likely to have access to therapy or counseling. The ongoing survey starts at the hospital with the birth of a child and continues to follow parents for five years. Unmarried fathers exhibit especially high hopes for their family, but their depression rates rise consistently during those next five years. The longer the depression goes on without counseling, the more it interferes with those hopes, effectively making the depression worse.
While the social and mental health impacts of poverty are increasingly well-documented, another study has highlighted an interesting class difference in which upper-class people are deficient: people with greater financial security, job prospects, and educational achievement are not so good at recognizing others’ emotions. Researchers hypothesize that because upper-class people are less reliant on the assistance and trustworthiness of others to get through daily life (such as paying for daycare instead of relying on a family member), they’re simply less attentive to ‘reading’ others. In each of these cases, environment and resources influence how people see and interact with the world. This is relevant to therapists and counselors because the better the mental health community understands where people are coming from, the better those people can be helped.
© Copyright 2010 by By John Smith, therapist in Bellingham, Washington. All Rights Reserved. Permission to publish granted to GoodTherapy.org.
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