An Interconnected Challenge: Physical Health in the Shadow of Mental Illness

Mental health challenges impact far more than the brain. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), individuals living with a serious mental illness have an increased risk for chronic disease—in some cases, a greatly elevated risk. For example, they are nearly twice as likely to develop cardiovascular and metabolic conditions such as high blood pressure and diabetes. And, adding to this struggle are the numerous ways that dealing with a mental illness makes it more challenging to pursue good overall heath.

This interconnected challenge leads not only to lower quality of life, but shorter length of life. NAMI reports that the life expectancy of people diagnosed with serious mental illness is 11-30 years shorter than that of the general population. Continue reading

A Well World: Reaching out

It’s a bit shocking when you think about it. In a 2021 research project* about individuals living in homelessness, 33 percent of all respondents self-identified as having mental health issues.

That means about one out of three homeless people are living each day not only with the challenges of poverty and insecure housing, but also with mental illnesses. What incredible obstacles they face! It can be nearly impossible to know where to turn for help and how to access that help. We want to change that. Continue reading

When Work Doesn’t Work

Well Community member Nathan* used to work. He liked to work. He wants to work again. But the challenges of living with bipolar disorder make steady work impossible. Coping with mental illness often occupies a great deal of his focus and energy and keeps him from being able to concentrate on the job. “My mind won’t stop. Even though I’m treated [with medication], my mind still races a lot, and it’s to the point where it keeps me awake at nighttime.”

As a result, Nathan has struggled to multitask in jobs, and recalls how he often wasn’t able to keep up with production while working at a factory. “I can’t have a whole bunch [of directions] in my head because I get things mixed up. In the work environment, sometimes they would just pile things on top of me. It just becomes overwhelming.” Continue reading

When Mental Illness and Poverty Intertwine

As if navigating life with a severe mental illness doesn’t create enough challenges, mental health difficulties often result in an array of additional debilitating hurdles. Because many living with mental illnesses do not have the ability to hold a job, poverty is often a constant companion. With poverty comes homelessness, poor health and insufficient nutrition, not to mention the less visible struggles with stigma and shame.

Members of The Well Community deal every day with serious mental health disorders such as bipolar, schizophrenia and major depression. And they live each hour with the despair of poverty. Continue reading

Mental Illness and Poverty: Magnifying Challenges in Times of Crisis

Health crises like the coronavirus pandemic impact us all. But, those who live with serious mental illnesses face unique challenges in times like this. Not only can uncertainty and fear trigger worsening of symptoms, but lack of access to things like healthy food, shelter and medical care can lead to a higher risk of illness.

The poverty faced by many who deal with life-altering mental health conditions plays a major role in magnifying the challenges of health crises. Below are several ways that those living with mental illnesses are especially impacted by lack of resources in times like these. Continue reading