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Poverty and mental illness


Bland, R, Poverty and mental illness, Thinking about Poverty, Federation Press, Klaus Serr (ed), Annandale, NSW, pp. 131-141. ISBN 9781862876262 (2006) [Research Book Chapter]

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Copyright 2006 Federation Press

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The Commonwealth Government's decision to target the eligibility arrangements for Disability Support Pension (DSP) as part of the Welfare to Work reforms (Dutton 2005) demands a review of the complex and elusive relationship between mental illness and poverty. The research literature over many decades has affirmed the correlation between mental illness and poverty, yet the directionality of that relationship remains contested and confused (Gomm 1996). Does poverty constitute a form of chronic and severe stress likely to cause mental illness? Is poverty a consequence of mental illness? How are these competing explanations worked out in key related areas such as income security, employment, and social support?

This chapter will briefly examine the competing explanations for the connections between poverty and mental illness. It will then describe the diversity of mental health problems that comprise the spectrum of mental illness, identifying the prevalence and impact of each of these diagnostic groups. The diversity of the phenomenon of mental illness, and consequent disabilities, explains much of the difficulty in establishing the relationship between poverty and mental illness. From here the chapter will consider the nature of economic disadvantage, and concepts of marginalisation, associated with mental illness. An analysis of work and income security provides a focus for understanding the way that poverty and mental illness work together to impact on the lives of individuals and families.

The final section of the chapter examines the implications for social policy, particularly the interface between mental health policy, as expressed in the National Mental Health Strategy, and welfare reform policy. It is clear that welfare reform represents an opportunity for people with mental illness to find work and move off benefits. More likely however, is that the demands of mutual obligation will create new and serious threats to the health and welfare of people with mental health problems.

Item Details

Item Type:Research Book Chapter
Keywords:poverty, mental illness, Disability Support Pension, DSP, stress, social policy, National Mental Health Strategy
Research Division:Human Society
Research Group:Social work
Research Field:Social work not elsewhere classified
Objective Division:Law, Politics and Community Services
Objective Group:Community services
Objective Field:Community services not elsewhere classified
UTAS Author:Bland, R (Professor Robert Bland)
ID Code:44245
Year Published:2006
Deposited By:Sociology and Social Work
Deposited On:2007-05-09
Last Modified:2014-01-02
Downloads:1 View Download Statistics

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