Reprinted from "Income" issue of Visions Journal, 2011, 7 (2), p. 4
Twelve years ago, Visions Journal did an issue on Poverty, Unemployment and Income. Since 1999, the party in power has changed, the names of ministries have changed, the names of benefit programs have changed, and benefit amounts have changed (a bit). But the fundamental issues haven’t really changed much at all. People with mental illness and addictions still face employment and income losses due to the episodic nature of their conditions. They still face a lot of barriers securing income support at a time when they’re least able to advocate for themselves. The forms are different now but are still long and hard to fill out. People facing an income loss still feel grief and stress and worry, all of which can trigger or worsen mental health and substance use problems. And people receiving government income assistance are still often scared to try working again for fear of workplace discrimination and for fear of losing their stable income support.
Think of your own life. It would be hard to maintain or achieve optimal physical or mental health if you didn’t have a decent, affordable place to live, if you didn’t have the schooling needed to access the kinds of work that would help you live out your potential, and if you didn’t have a job you liked that helped pay for the things you and your family needed to have a decent quality of life. At my organization, we describe housing, employment, income and education as basic elements of citizenship. They are very interconnected and it’s hard to be healthy without them. Having them helps us connect socially with others. It helps give our lives security, meaning, value and dignity.
I know it’s hard to talk about income and income gaps in this province without talking politics, but let’s try and use a public health lens first.
About the authorSarah is Visions Editor and Director of Mental Health Promotion at the Canadian Mental Health Association's BC Division. She also has personal experience with mental illness.