Advocating for the Mental Health Needs of Children Living in Rural Poverty

Advocating for the Mental Health Needs of Children Living in Rural Poverty

Denise Lenares-Solomon (Augusta University, USA), Christina Conti (Augusta University, USA) and Christina George (Augusta University, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-2787-0.ch007

Abstract

A person's mental health involves their social, psychological, and emotional wellness, all of which are important to their development. Lack of resources and access to effective mental health services can have a negative impact on the mental health of children residing in poverty-stricken rural communities. In advocating for this population, the authors have highlighted five factors that work as barriers in the mental health of children living in rural poverty. These factors were identified as early development, healthcare accessibility, parental/caretaker's educational level, educational system, and mental health stigma and stress. Furthermore, the authors presented a multi-layered approach for addressing these barriers. The components of the multi-layered approach include school-based resources, community-based resources, medical-based resources, and government-based resources. A case illustration is used to demonstrate the practical application of one aspect of the multi-layered approach – the school-based resources. Lastly, the authors stated that more research is needed for this population in regard to the effects of rural poverty on the mental health of children.
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Background

The United States government defines poverty as a state of living below the federal poverty line or earning less than $24,000 a year for a family of four (Kena et al., 2015). In 2013, approximately 21% of school-age children were living in households considered to be in poverty (Kena et al., 2015). A child in poverty can be negatively affected by a variety of environmental and situational factors ranging from lack of proper nutrition, differing parental level of education, stress, and lack of care, both physically and mentally (Conger, Conger, & Martin, 2010). These factors affect a child’s ability to learn, regulate their emotions, and fight against hopelessness (Evans, 2016). A deficiency in these skills negatively influences the child’s mental health. Mental health skills from early childhood and adolescence are vital to a person’s success later in life.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Mental Health Literacy: The understanding of mental health wellbeing information.

Mental Health Competency: Mental and medical healthcare provider’s understanding and recognition of the effect of a client’s environment on their health.

Social Emotional Learning: The means by which people manage and understand their emotions.

Mental Health Stigma: The negative belief or attitude towards mental illness and someone suffering from mental illness.

Mental Health: A person’s emotional and psychological wellbeing.

Multi-Layered Approach: Utilizing several pathways to address a problem.

Mental Illness: Medical conditions that affect behavior, thinking, or emotion.

Positive Behavioral Interventions and Support: Strategies that are used to assist students who are displaying behaviors that are preventing them from learning.

School-Based Mental Health Programs: Initiatives used in schools that provide early intervention and prevention to improve the emotional and social development of students.

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