The interaction between the socioeconomic circumstances surrounding a person and his or her innate attributes may either emerge as a risk factor for mental illness or protect his or her mental health.
Generally, certain sections of the society are comparatively more vulnerable to experiencing mental health issues, such as people from the poor socioeconomic background, those suffering from chronic illnesses, those belonging to minority groups, those exposed to extreme violence and displaced by war or conflict, etc.
Similarly, the chances of developing depressive symptoms are higher among African-Americans compared to the whites. Due to their experiences related to deprivation, abuse or hardships, they are more susceptible to life stressors than other population groups. In fact, the harrowing experience of going through discrimination on a daily basis is the primary risk factor for depression among black men.
Considering the increased vulnerability of African-Americans, it is essential to identify both risk and protective factors responsible for triggering depressive symptoms. Both risk and protective factors can be biological or psychosocial in nature that are prevalent in the surrounding of an individual, such as family, community or other institutions.
However, not everyone with risk factors go on to develop mental disorders as protective factors play an essential part in preventing such problems. Protective factors help in overcoming some of the harsher implications of the risk factors. Given the benefits of protective factors, recent research has been directed toward understanding their importance in building resilience toward all challenges of psychiatric disorders.
Poor socioeconomic background can heighten depressive symptoms
A study conducted by a team of researchers at the Georgia State University in Atlanta focused on identifying the risk and protective factors that promote depressive symptoms in African-American men. It was found that African-American men are more prone to depressive symptoms despite the fact that white Americans are more likely to suffer from a major depressive disorder (MDD).
The researchers used data from a community-based study of Miami-Dade County (Fla) where residents were linked to the neighborhood census data. Nearly 2,000 people from various ethnic groups between 2000 and 2001 were surveyed. The study participants consisted of a sample of 248 African-American men.
Using the stress process model, it was found that on an average, eight depressive symptoms are reported by African-American men in a month. In fact, 16 or more depressive symptoms were reported by around 11 percent of African-Americans, a level often used to determine the clinical-level depression.
Among the factors that influence their psychological health are self-esteem, family support, mastery, chronic stressors and discrimination. The factors that affect the well-being of the general population, such as coping resources, stress exposure and economic conditions, also impact the African-American men.
While mastery and self-esteem help to counter the negative psychological consequences of lower socioeconomic neighborhoods, family support acts as a buffer against the damaging effects of stress exposure. However, the presence of fewer coping resources, greater stress exposure and poorer economic conditions than the general population results in systematic disparities in terms of psychological health.
In order to address the challenges of mental health problems experienced by African-Americans, social factors, such as coping resources, stress exposure and economic conditions, need to be improved. Moreover, the public health policies should strive to enhance the neighborhood condition.
While self-reliance through the development of mastery and self-esteem may be able to mitigate the psychological consequences associated with living in relatively poor neighborhoods, family support is important for minimizing the repercussions on one’s mental health due to stress exposure.
Depression is treatable
The risk factors of mental health need to be countered in a multilayered manner. It is essential to implement certain broad strategies to enhance one’s psychological well-being, including nurturance of self-esteem and resilience, during the formative years. This will enable early recognition and treatment of emotional or behavioral problems. Moreover, other essential measures are self-determination (especially among vulnerable persons) and enhancement of the living and working conditions to enable psychosocial development, advancement of positive interactions among various social groups, opportunities and care of individuals with mental disorders, etc.
If you or your loved one is suffering from depression or any other mental health disorder, contact the Depression Treatment Helpline to get information about the various treatment centers for depression in the U.S. Call at our 24/7 helpline number 866-619-7729 or chat online with our representatives to know about some of the best depression help centers.