Challenges of Maintaining Mental Health While in Poverty


With over 20 percent of Californians living in poverty, and another 20 percent of Californians in near-poverty, struggles to pay for the necessities of life are growing in the state each year. The difficulties of carrying out life’s everyday activities are stretched even further when rising issues of mental health are linked to those who live a poorer economic existence. This is particularly poignant for people trying to save money and keep warm in winter when finding funds for food, warmth and shelter causes more strains on communities.  

Battling mental illness

The connection between mental or emotional health when living under the poverty line is a complex question in today’s modern society. Despite federal investments into Sacramento's outreach programs, studies are constantly highlighting the links and subsequent effects of  high rates of poverty and mental disorders. Mental health is rarely caused by one singular thing and is not confined to one group of people: from healthcare workers to the patients they treat, we can all be susceptible to the darker elements of our emotional selves. Although difficult at times, maintaining a healthy mental attitude is essential to help make the most of life and increase levels of happiness. Fortunately, there are ways to assist your mental health and stay positive.


Mental health versus poverty

For millions of people, mental health and poverty often takes on the analogy of the chicken and egg: a person with mental health issues due to genetics or adverse life events, can slip into poverty by not being able to cope with the economic or emotional strains of life. Similarly, the pressures of having to cope on or below the breadline, can trigger mental illnesses among the vulnerable. With more than 44 million Americans battling with mental health conditions, our homeless neighbors are some of the hardest to reach, especially when self-medicating with drugs or alcohol. Not having enough food to eat, finding money to survive and other poverty-associated worries means that these susceptible members of society are likely to develop greater risks for physicals illnesses too.  

What can be done?

Initiatives from government agencies to combat the rise in poverty and mental health are sadly not happening fast enough. Strategies to offer low cost housing solutions, treatments for helping the mentally ill and addressing the growing concern of the rise in poverty among children in Sacramento, are often counterproductive in relation to the social opportunities, economic development, health and education needs that should to be addressed. Volunteering and offering donations to non-profit organizations like Sacramento Food Bank & Family Services (SFBFS), who are working directly with individuals and depend on the support of local donors to keep critical programs running, can make a huge impact.

Although it is unclear how long the cycle of mental health and poverty will exist in our local communities, greater resources and mobilizing help will go a long way to help improve these services and members of our community who are powerless to help themselves.

Please visit to learn more about supporting SFBFS.

Submitted by: Jane Lloyd
Freelance Writer