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Family Guidance Blog

Poverty: The Not-So-Silent Enemy Affecting Childhood Mental Health

It’s no secret that poverty has been linked with crime. But what many people don’t know is that it can also affect mental health. Growing up impoverished can be stressful on many levels, factors that impact a child’s capacity to learn, interact with others and reach his or her true potential. Research shows that kids who grow up at or below the poverty line are at triple the risk of developing a mental healthPoverty 1 disorder.

Just as Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs demonstrates, basic physiological and safety needs must be met before individuals can evolve to more advanced goals like forming healthy relationships with others, building self-esteem, and attaining self-actualization. The lack of proper food, shelter, sleep or safety that is often associated with poverty disrupts the achievement of higher level needs and can negatively affect a person’s psyche.

According to Dr. Jean Clinton, psychiatrist employed at McMaster University’s Offord Centre for Child Studies in Canada, another major source of stress for children living in poverty is observing the daily struggle of their parents to pay bills and put food on the table. It’s difficult for parents to fully focus or invest in their children as they’d like when they have to spend the bulk of their energy on survival, she says.

While Clinton advises that not every child who grows up in poverty is destined to experience problems, she adds that living in impoverished neighborhoods does leave certain children open to vulnerabilities. These vulnerabilities include compromised physical health and academic setbacks due to language and cognitive delays. One study demonstrated that these delays could even be seen through the fourth

One measure of a child’s communication skills, emotional aptitude, and cognitive development is the Early Development Instrument (EDI), which is widely used throughout Canada and across the globe. The EDI is a tool used to assess school readiness and helps ensure that services are allocated to areas where they are needed most.

Providing early access to required services is key in countering the impact that poverty can have on childhood mental health. Family Guidance Center offers families assistance regardless of income. To learn more about available services and screenings provided through Family Guidance Center, call or
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How to Cope With Issues of Mental Health and Homelessness

Mental Health 3The relationship between homelessness and mental illness is complex and often the two are intertwined. The reality of homelessness in America is still met with scrutiny as some people believe living on the streets is simply the result of problems with drugs or an unwillingness to work. However, other causes for being homeless include abuse and mental health problems.

The reality is, it’s not uncommon for those with severe, untreated mental health issues to end up on the streets, and a great number are single parents and children. A PsychCentral blog presents 2013 data from the National Alliance to End Homelessness, which shows that approximately 250,000 families have no roof over their heads, many of whom feel alone and don’t know where to turn. Seven percent of this group resides outside urban areas where it may be more difficult to find help.

Sadly, one of every 45 kids in the U.S. is homeless. Some live out of vehicles or turn to public places like libraries for shelter. And going undetected isn’t extremely difficult with the use of a PO box or another’s residential address. According to the National Center on Family Homelessness, kids without shelter are more apt to experience medical problems including ear infections, irritation of the GI tract, asthma, and other breathing problems. They are also at triple the risk of behavioral problems as their non-homeless peers.

Having a loved one with a mental illness can be difficult, especially if the person hasn’t received a diagnosis or refuses treatment. A lot of family members are left feeling helpless, particularly when mental health issues lead the person to be hospitalized, imprisoned, or homeless. There are, however, ways for families and friends to help.

Family Guidance Center is a great resource for questions regarding mental health. Mental health professionals there can put you in touch with other organizations which may be able to offer additional assistance. Mental illness and homelessness are not conditions to be ashamed of, but to be addressed with the goal of management and recovery.  Contact Family Guidance Center today to begin working together on a plan for assessment, diagnosis and treatment.

Food Shortages Related to Mental Health Problems in Teens

Children Mental Health 2Each day children in the U.S. go hungry, and it is compromising their well being. Having one’s basic needs met is not only important for the development of physical health, but also mental health, especially for those who are young.

A new study, which was published in the Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, sought to determine if fear of going hungry was related to the past-year presence of mental disorders in teens. Analysis of data for nearly 6,500 adolescents was gathered from the National Comorbidity Survey Replication Adolescent Supplement (NCS-A). Teens in the survey ranged from age 13 to 17. For purposes of the study, food insecurity was determined as not being able to access enough food to prevent going hungry.

Even after investigators took into account factors such as poverty and other socio-economic issues, they uncovered that even slight increases in food insecurity significantly increased one’s chances of having a past-year mental health problem such as anxiety, depression, or addiction. For each single increase in standard deviation, there was a 14 percent rise in the chance of having a mental health disorder.

This is particularly concerning because over one in five families in the U.S. cope with some form of food insecurity as reported in a Psych Central article. Per the research, food insecurity was a better predictor of mental health disorders in teens than even the parents’ education level or income.

Study authors believe the results suggest that, in addition to poverty, not having enough food to satisfy hunger further elevates the risk of mental health problems in adolescents. The findings of the study emphasize the importance of creating more programs aimed at addressing food shortages amongst children and teens.

The struggle to meet basic needs can be tough for many families, but is even tougher when mental health problems like substance abuse, depression, or anxiety are present. The Family Guidance Center has resources that can guide you through the process of assessment, diagnosis and treatment. If you or someone you know is struggling with these issues, contact the Family Guidance Center for ways we can help.