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Public Health Essay Example: Inequality in Mental Illness

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University of Richmond
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Health inequality refers to the disparity in health status among different population groups. Health inequalities occur due to biological variations, social or geographical factors. One of the illnesses that reveals health inequality is mental illness. Groups that are vulnerable to mental health inequalities include the homeless people, the minority communities, people with disabilities and violence and abuse victims. Poverty which is common among people in lower social classes causes psychosocial stress, frustration and family disruption which is an issue causing mental ill-health in the society (Wahl 2012). The people with lower social class are therefore likely to suffer from mental health compared to those in higher social classes. The focus of the paper will be the impact of social inequalities on mental ill-health, deviant behaviour, the relationship between discrimination and psychological ill-health as well as approaches that can be used to address people on mental health.

Health inequalities are the differences in the health status between different people. They are influenced by determinants of health namely environmental, social and economic conditions. The determinants of health are integrated and complex economic systems and social structures that cause health inequities. The more favourable the social, ecological and economic factor, the better the health of an individual. Social class is the classification of people based on their wealth, influence and social status. There are upper and lower social classes in the society which are grouped based on peoples economic and social status. The unequal distribution of resources, money, and power leads to health inequality as individuals who are socially disadvantaged by occupation, education, income and place of residence are at risk of becoming ill.

Different determinants of health vary based on ones social class. The higher the social class of an individual, the better the health status. The income of a person can affect his or her health. The lower the income level, the lower the health status hence the income level of an individual affects his or her health. People with high income afford good medical services hence have low chances of having illnesses unlike those with low income (Wahl 2012). They can also afford healthy organic foods hence good health. Based on statistics from the poverty site, poor adults in the UK are at risk of developing a mental illness at 24% compared to the average income earners at 14% ( 2010).

People with high education levels have better health status than the illiterate or those with low educational qualifications. Learned people understand the need to seek medical care whenever they are ill hence act on time before their illnesses worsen. They are also enlightened on the importance of consuming healthy foods, and they embrace it when making food choices. According to data collected from Adult Psychiatric Morbidity Survey (APMS) in 2007 and 2014, adults with mental illness and lacked educational qualifications were 1.5% while those with degree-level qualifications were 0.2% hence the prevalence of mental illness among people with low education levels (Elliott 2016). On the other hand, they have good jobs hence better salaries than those with low education levels. They can, therefore, afford proper medical attention before their health statuses deteriorate. Based on data from AMPS in 2014, the unemployed and economically inactive people had a prevalence rate of 30% for common mental health problems while the employed had mental illness prevalence of 15% (Mental Health Foundation 2016). Additionally, the area where one lives influences one health status because people who live in areas that have social amenities such as hospitals can seek medical attention when they need to. They can also afford to stay physically fit by enrolling in gyms and meal plans which enable them to have good health status (Mental Health Foundation 2016). Therefore, good education, high income, and good living conditions lead to lower instances of mental illness than in areas with people with low socioeconomic status.

Deviant behaviour refers to the act of breaking social norms. Psychological, social and biological are primary causes of deviance while societal reactions relate to secondary deviance. Some deviant behaviours include murder, rape, robbery, and assault and they lead to stigmatisation of the victims. The victims end up suffering shame, social exclusion, and isolation. Deviance amplification is the process by which the mass media exaggerates the seriousness and extent of deviant behaviour (Wahl 2012). It aims to offer more awareness about a deviant as well as uncovering more deviance in the society. The media can introduce moral panics by making predictions of worse events to occur which lead to people taking measures to prevent further deviance. Mental ill health deviance can be amplified through peoples responses and perceptions on the diagnosis and treatment of people with mental illness. Their information about how people react to people with mental illness and how they view the treatment process is openly discussed hence a way of highlighting stigmatisation of people who are mentally ill.

Discrimination is the unjust treatment of people based on their gender, age, race among other factors. Prejudice is the negative perception of a person. The types of discrimination are direct and indirect discrimination. Direct discrimination refers to when a person treats another less positively because of his or her disability while indirect discrimination refers to when there is a practice or rule that applies to all people however it disadvantages the disabled people. Discrimination arising from a persons disability occurs when an employer mistreats the disabled person because of an act he did that is linked to the disability. For instance, a 54-year-old city woman was fired from her job in March 2013 because of taking time to visit her therapist (Ross 2014). Additionally, J who had a history of depression revealed her history of depression after being offered a job at DLA Piper LLP. The job offer was withdrawn after she declared her condition hence a form of discrimination to her due to her health condition (Daurka 2010). A recent issue affecting people with post-traumatic stress is being deprived access to life insurance. The victims with mental health conditions lack firms that can offer them life insurance services due to their illness (Marsh 2018).

The Equality Act 2010 is an Act of Parliament that protects with a mental or physical disability from unlawful discrimination (Act 2010). One of the ways to address the discrimination is an employer offering reasonable time schedules for a mentally ill employee Celebrities have a massive influence on the information they share in public. Some celebrities have spoken out about their mental illness which is an approach to address discrimination to the victims. They include Ryan Reynolds who suffers from intense anxiety and has been supported by his wife, Cara Delevinge who struggle with depression as a teenager and Ellie Goulding who has suffered panic attacks however learnt to control it (Brotherton 2017). Firms are also fighting against mental health victims discrimination. Heads Together campaigns against stigma on mentally ill people and Mind uses training, campaigns, and networks to care for people with mental illnesses and encourage people to treat them fairly ( 2017). Based on data between 2008 and 2014 on attitudes towards people with mental illness from Time to Change, the attitudes were more favourable in 2014 as people agreed that people with mental illness should be given responsibilities and were okay with living with mentally ill people (Attitudes to Mental Illness 2014 Research Report 2015). People facing mental illness need to be the champions in involving the society in understanding the conditions and how people should treat mentally ill people.

In conclusion, health inequality is the difference of health status among people in a group or region. It is determined by factors such as education, income level, employment status and place of residence. High income, high education level, stable employment and high living standards are linked to the upper social class where individuals are less likely to encounter illness unlike those in the lower social class. Mental illness is a health issue that has affected people with less income, education and the unemployed due to lack of finances to seek medical help or access to quality medical care. There is discrimination among the people who have a mental illness, and deviant behaviour has been amplified in the society through mass media to enable people to be aware of the issues the victims go through. The Equality Act 2010 has played an enormous role in protecting the people living with mental illness especially in the workplaces. Other initiatives that might improve discrimination among mental illness patients include social contact and employers offering them flexible working schedules.



Act, E., 2010. Equality Act 2010. The Equality Act.

Attitudes to Mental Illness 2014 Research Report. (2015). TNS BMRB, p.8.

Brotherton, H. (2017). Celebrities Speak Out About Their Mental Health Battles. [online] Marie Claire. Available at:

Daurka, K. (2010). Disclosing mental health problems could work against you. [online] the Guardian. Available at:

Elliott, I. (June 2016) Poverty and Mental Health: A review to inform the Joseph Rowntree Foundations Anti-Poverty Strategy. London: Mental Health Foundation (2017). About Heads Together Heads Together. [online] Available at:

Marsh, S. (2018). People with mental illnesses refused access to insurance cover. [online] the Guardian. Available at:

Mental Health Foundation (2016). Fundamental Facts about Mental Health 2016. Mental Health Foundation, pp.56-62. (2010). UK: mental health - The Poverty Site. [online] Available at:

Ross, M. (2014). The last stigma: mental illness and the workplace The Mercury News. [online] Available at:

Wahl, O.F., 2012. Stigma as a barrier to recovery from mental illness. Trends in cognitive sciences, 16(1), pp.9-10.


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