Cash, basic treatment can improve mental health of people in poverty

Poverty and mental illness can go hand in hand, with financial troubles leading to depression and anxiety, which in turn can make it difficult for people to succeed financially. A recent worldwide study led by Vikram Patel, professor in the Department of Global Health and Population at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, found that interventions providing people in poverty with either cash support or access to basic treatment had positive effects on their mental health.

A May-June 2021 article in Harvard Magazine highlighted work by Patel, a research psychiatrist, to promote mental health in areas where access to treatment is scarce. For example, he and his colleagues trained community members in Zimbabwe and other countries to provide a simple form of cognitive behavioral therapy.

This approach is applicable in the U.S., Patel said, noting that only about 40% of people in the country who have major depressive disorder get any treatment. He and his colleagues plan to train U.S. medical workers in basic mental health care techniques this summer.

Read the Harvard Magazine article: Linking Mental and Fiscal Health