Poverty and mental health
A review to inform the Joseph Rowntree Foundation’s Anti-Poverty Strategy
“Poverty increases the risk of mental health problems and can be both a causal factor and a consequence of mental ill health. Mental health is shaped by the wide-ranging characteristics (including inequalities) of the social, economic and physical environments in which people live. Successfully supporting the mental health and wellbeing of people living in poverty, and reducing the number of people with mental health problems experiencing poverty, require engagement with this complexity. […]
Although mental health problems can affect anyone at any time, they are not equally distributed and prevalence varies across social groups.”
Although this policy review is based on UK data it is relevant for everybody working in the mental health sector
The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) estimates that there are currently 24.5 million refugees and asylum-seekers in the world (UNHCR 2015).
Depression is the leading cause of disability worldwide and is a major contributor to the overall global burden of disease. Mental health among refugees is increasingly being discussed and researchers acknowledge:
Refugees are a vulnerable people.
We have found that uncertain refugee status is a key factor contributing to mental illness in pregnant women. Women with uncertain refugee status are particularly vulnerable to maternal mental illness. Psychological trauma, associated with political conflict, displacement, violence, loss of loved ones, torture, rape and poverty contribute to poorer general maternal health.
For more information see our Issue Brief and for a quick visual overview see our infographic below.
In low- and middle-income countries (LMICs), competing health priorities, civil conflict, and a lack of political will mean that expenditure on mental health is a fraction of that needed to meet the mental health care needs of the population.
For mothers, this treatment gap is most notable in regions where health agendas focus on maternal mortality indicators.
Who is at risk of perinatal mental health disorder?
Common mental disorders during pregnancy and in the first year after birth are associated with certain risk factors. These include poverty, migration, extreme stress, exposure to violence (domestic, sexual and gender-based), previous history of mental disorders, alcohol and other drug use as well as low social support.
In South Africa, there is a very high prevalence of adolescent pregnancies with 39% of 15- to 19-year old girls being pregnant at least once. When adolescent mothers suffer from depression, the likelihood of a subsequent teenage pregnancy nearly doubles.
How to address maternal mental illness among economically disadvantaged parents?
Integration of services!
Mothers in many settings are using maternal and child health services as well as social services. Thus, detection and access will increase if maternal health screening and services are integrated into these public care platforms.
How to implement a maternal mental health intervention in low-resource settings?
We are sharing our lessons learned in this learning brief.
We have also developed a Service Development Guidelines which demonstrates how to develop a mental health intervention at your facility, even with limited resources.
Find more free & open access resources for professionals on our website
And what about dads?
Postnatal depression can affect dads too. Find out about common concerns for new dads and discover helpful tips on how they can become more involved. We compiled a leaflet with information that could help you be better prepared for what is happening. The leaflets are available in
In our last newsletter of the year we’ve thanked you, our supporters, families and friends who believed in the work we do and supported us throughout 2016.
With your donation of expertise and money we were able to care for mothers in need and engage with those providing health and social support for them.
Enjoy this festive season and we are looking forward to an even more exciting 2017 with you!
In this newsletter we are highlighting some of the achievements of the previous two months. Happy reading.
A number of new studies have found that stress, depression or anxiety during and after pregnancy can have long lasting effects on the development of your child.
We have translated some of those findings into an Issue Brief and added some of our recommendations for evidence based interventions for parents.
This Issue Brief outlines not only the risk factors for parents, but also encourages the building of resilience to prevent or lessen the negative impacts for children.
“Caring for mothers and fathers – is caring for the future”
“Cindy* neglected her four children to such an extent that social workers removed the youngest two, both toddlers.
But after Nadia Drotsche, a social worker dealing with Cindy, attended a course on empathic training, she realised that Cindy might be depressed rather than an uncaring and lazy parent.”
Abused in labour, depressed after giving birth – pregnancy can be a nightmare for women. But an inexpensive intervention by the Perinatal Mental Health Project (PMHP) is trying to change this by teaching caregivers to listen, empathise, and identify depression.
Read more in this article by Kerry Cullinan in the Daily Maverick