‘Mental Wealth’ is a term I have began using to describe a specific state or condition of emotional and psychological wellness. The term connotes a set of psychological circumstances that can affect ones socio-economic status. The association between social disadvantage and mental illness, especially psychotic disorders, has been extensively documented in the medical world. A paper co-produced by W.H.O. stated that:
“Social inequalities are associated with increased risk of many common mental disorders.” (World Health Organization and Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation. Social determinants of mental health. Geneva, World Health Organization, 2014.)
So does being economically disadvantaged predispose people to higher risks of mental illness? Evidently. Sadly, the reverse is also true – being mentally ill can often force people into poverty:
People living with severe mental disorders (SMD), including psychotic disorders, such as schizophrenia and bipolar disorder, are thought to drift into poverty as a consequence of factors such as reduced income, increased medical and transport costs, and lost productivity . The economic effects of SMD extend beyond the individual with a mental health problem to adversely impact household income . Household members may devote time to provide care and support, diminishing their own opportunities to work , in turn affecting their income, and thus further increasing the risk of household poverty . (Hailemichael, Yohannes et al. “Mental health problems and socioeconomic disadvantage: a controlled household study in rural Ethiopia.” International journal for equity in health vol. 18,1 121. 31 Jul. 2019)
We know that having access to free or affordable mental health resources, ideally community-led facilities, such as psychological therapies, psychopharmacological interventions and emotional support i.e. family, friends, ESAs are crucial for enabling people to manage their mental health, and supporting healthy, stable and empowered communities. Yet, even in a more economically developed country like Ireland, there is a shocking lack of community mental health services, especially in migrant and low socio-economic communities. According to UNICEF Ireland, Ireland has a disproportionate rate of suicides among high-income countries, the fourth-highest to be precise. Clearly, Ireland has a serious youth mental health issues that can have detrimental effects on the Irish population and economy. The solution to this major health and socioeconomic issue is deeply complex and will involve nuanced systemic overhaul of entire government and social structures.
In the meantime, some commercial and non–profit organisations are taking on the challenge of understanding and raising awareness about mental health among young people in Ireland. I published a series of articles on the topic of mental wellbeing for BYOS, a Dublin-based social-enterprise founded by the jewellery designer and entrepreneur Melissa Curry.
How To: Connecting Mind Body & Spirit series is a digital guide to mental well-being for young people.
My own experience with mental illness, and knowledge of mindfulness tools and positive mental health strategies, following my study of mindfulness and compassion-based interventions at the University of Amsterdam (as part of the U21 Summer School Scholarship Graduate Programme), led me to create How To: Connecting Mind Body & Spirit series.
Mental health is a personal and important issue for me. I love being able to share offline and online resources, personal experiences, and encouragement through research and creative narratives. My goal is to connect and collaborate with other writers, artists, mental-health advocates and organisations contributing to promoting youth mental well-being.
You can read my work with BYOS at the link below.