I recently shared my excitement over attending the Atlanta Women’s Foundation (AWF) fundraising event on women in poverty with mental health struggles. The event, called Numbers 2 Big, was the biggest fundraising event of the year and was held at the Georgia World Congress Center. It was supposed to feature guest speaker Carrie Fisher and I was attending as a guest of Everywhere Agency.

Unfortunately, it didn’t work out exactly as planned.

Let's talk numbers. These numbers are too big to ignore. The relationship between poverty and mental illness is huge, especially in women and girls.

Carrie Fisher had to cancel due to an emergency and Jane Pauley was the featured speaker instead. Then, I had a work emergency and wasn’t able to leave the office. The event was attended by some of the most powerful and influential women in Atlanta; I was devastated that I couldn’t make it. I’ll always carry the disappointment of missing such an important event. Fortunately, the ladies from Everywhere Agency were kind enough to fill me in on the Numbers 2 Big luncheon so I feel like I was there (even though I wasn’t).

The goal was to turn the tables on poverty and make a difference in the lives of the girls and women who are suffering.

Let me share a startling statistic.

81,000 girls and 320,000 women and girls live in poverty in the five-county metro area | Source

I’ve previously worked with Room to Read, Care.org, and other organizations to promote the advancement of girls and women around the world so this cause is very close to my heart. Events like this are so important.

Jane Pauley at AWF

The AWF is an amazing Atlanta organization. They are the only public foundation in Georgia dedicated solely to women and girls. Over the years the AWF has invested more than $13 million into over 250 Atlanta non-profits which work to move women and girls from poverty to economic self-sufficiency.

Here’s another startling statistic…

The average cost a woman in poverty pays for a mental health screening is $98.00

Oh, that doesn’t sound like it’s really thatmuch? Then let’s think about the fact that in 2013, a Georgia study of the Atlanta Metro area (DeKalb and Fulton Counties) found, of the women identified with mental health disorders, 19.4% made less than $20,000 annually.

Do you realize that means that $98 for a mental health screening is .05% of their entire annual income before taxes?

Let’s break it down differently.

A woman making $20,000 per year would bring home $1,666 per month. That means that 6% of their monthly income pays for their mental health screening. Now, remember that doesn’t include counseling, therapy, psychiatric appointments, or medication.

I’ll make a personal confession here – the psychologist I see every month costs me $180 per appointment. I have insurance but he runs a private practice and doesn’t deal with the hassle of it. He’s a highly respected doctor and I can afford it so I pay it.

It’s sad and unfortunate that so many women out there can’t do the same.

Women living in poverty are twice as likely to suffer from mental illness than women not living in poverty. Isn’t that terrible?

Let’s remember, though, that poverty doesn’t cause mental illness. It’s only a contributing factor.

Consider Jane Pauley’s story…

Without any warning whatsoever, Jane began to exhibit symptoms of bipolar disorder shortly after she turned 50.

Naturally, the diagnosis caught her by surprise! I mean, who among us would ever expect to be diagnosed with a mental disorder after turning 50? We always feel like if you are mentally healthy at 30 or 35 you’re “safe” but that’s not the case. It doesn’t work like that.

Despite the surprise, Jane considered herself fortunate because she had the financial resources necessary to get the help she needed. She’s able to afford her appointments and her medication. She takes medication every day, reviews her daily activities, gets enough sleep, and is in the fortunate position of being able to obtain quality care.

Many women in Atlanta aren’t so fortunate.

One of the most consistently reported findings in social science research has been the relationship between health and socioeconomic status and mental illness. Women in poverty experience stress, grief, and depression without the resources or networks in place to support their mental health needs.  I can’t blame them though. If you were trying to build a life and support a family on $20,000 a year wouldn’t you be stressed and/or depressed too?

The ladies that attended the fundraising luncheon were encouraged to donate to the Atlanta Women’s Foundation and it would mean the world to me if you would be willing to do the same.

Whatever you can spare, to help beautiful women in my city get the mental health care they need.  Donate here.

Let’s Talk…

  • Do you know anyone that suffers from a mental health disorder? How has it impacted their lives?
  • What do you think of the mental health care offerings in your local area?
  • What organizations or charities are you involved with in your community?