Money buys mental health?

Money can’t buy you love. However, it can buy you cosmetic procedures and in the US it’s essential for buying healthcare. Sadly, in the UK if you need to see a counsellor quickly and/or locally and you’re not deemed a ‘high priority’ by the NHS (as almost no-one is), then you need money for mental health services in the UK too.

The connection between health and money might be much subtler than that. There is a link in the West between the poorer in society and their physical health, either through being unable to afford decent food and gym time or through having to work in environments that are more hazardous to physical health. However, there may also be a much-ignored link between poverty and mental health.

To highlight this link, Aprils’ Journal of Counselling and Psychotherapy Research from the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy, published a series of studies on the effects of social class and poverty on mental health and wellbeing (April, 2018). The studies looked across political boundaries as far as Chile, and it seems that poorer people are unlikely to seek support for mental health issues as quickly as those who are comfortably well off. I can imagine that this might be because the initial costs are such that a problem must be significant to divert precious money from other competing needs. Even in places like the UK, where healthcare is mostly free, just the travel costs might influence someone’s decision about seeking help.

Then there’s the stigma of mental health. Richer folk might find ways to pay to have their mental health services use remain ‘off official books’. I have heard of people seeking private therapy so that no record of it is on their NHS record, which might be requested by employers.

All this seems to imply there’s a threshold at which earnings lead to better health outcomes. As a society we could improve this by maintaining higher minimum wages and higher basic rates of benefits, so that threshold is reached by more people. We could also make sure mental health is as well funded as possible so that the help is very local to everyone and the financial wherewithal needed to access it is as small as possible. It’s also important to keep doing our best to fight the stigma surrounding mental health by showing more integration of people with mental health issues in media like TV and in the Cinema.

It’s a real shame that a level playing field in mental health is sadly still a long way away.

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