Control about Our Mental Health
We like to think of Australia as a country without divisions. We like to think that everyone has a fair go, and that things are equal. However, there are some real distinctions between different groups in Australia and their access to mental health care, no matter how we wish it was otherwise. One of the ways that we are divided is through socioeconomic factors and perceptions of control about our mental health.
Socioeconomics and mental health
Socioeconomic factors affect mental health in many ways. The lack of financial resources can mean that people cannot always afford the help that they need. Whilst people can ask their GP for a mental health care plan to see a psychologist at a subsidised fee, there is frequently still a fee to be paid. Even a minimal fee, can be too much for those who are struggling financially.
Mental health and control
However, there is another factor a play here as well. Breslin and McCay (2012) discovered through research that people from is lower socioeconomic groups “tend to believe they have less control over their physical health and next to no control over their mental health” (p.38).
Not feeling that they have a sense of control about mental health, those people are less likely to even seek mental health care when they need it.
In addition, lower socioeconomic status can also mean less education. It is hard to be precise about how this affects mental health, but it seems to result in a reduced trust that people can study to learn a profession, such as the profession of mental health. In other words, there is less trust that mental health workers know what they're doing.
So what can you do? The most obvious thing is to encourage a struggling person to believe that they have some control about their mental health, and help build that control. If we help empower them, this gives him a greater sense of self determination and control.
With that increased sense of control, hopefully they can guide themselves towards services that will make a difference.
Let me know what you think in the comments. Now, read about Warmth: the Beating Heart of Good Psychotherapy
– Tim Hill
(Breslin, G. & McCay, N. 2012, ‘Perceived Control over Mental and Physical Wellbeing: The Effects of gender, Age and Social Class', Journal of Health Psychology, 18(1) 38-45).