An Overview of Mental Health in Camden, New Jersey
The city in New Jersey located right across the river from Philadelphia was originally explored and inhabited by Dutch and Swedish settlers in the 1600s. Later, the Irish Quakers lived in and tended the land that is modern day Camden, New Jersey. Today, the city still celebrates its heritage with an Irish Fest and other fun, educational events and groups.
Camden is just a short drive from Philadelphia, and it is worth a visit for its various attractions. Visitors and residents alike enjoy all that the city has to offer. Possible places to explore and experience include. Adventure Aquarium, Camden Children’s Garden, Battleship New Jersey, and the Walt Whitman House. There are also 21 parks and conservation areas in the county with over 2,000 acres of land. Play a game of disc golf or watch wildlife in their natural habitats.
A deeper look into the city, though, reveals mental health concerns in several areas: poverty, race, education, marriage, crime, and drugs. With approximately 76,000 people, Camden, New Jersey earns several titles including most people living in poverty, least people with professional degrees, and least safe city.
The median household income in the city is just over $26,000, while the national median is almost $60,000. With such low wages, it is no wonder that the poverty rate in Camden is over 38 percent. This rate is over three times higher than the national poverty level of 12.3 percent. The city is not only first on the list of the top 101 cities with the most people below poverty level but also number one on the list of the top 101 cities with the most people below 50 percent of the poverty level.
Often, poverty precedes mental health disorders, and then the cycle self-perpetuates. Insufficient finances lead to psychological illnesses. Stigma, discrimination, violence, and lack of education often follow mental problems. These vulnerabilities lead to social withdrawal, hopelessness, and difficulty concentrating, which in turn may hinder economic and social development.
The race distribution in Camden is skewed toward two ethnicities that are highly vulnerable for particular psychological difficulties and risk factors. With over 50 percent of the population being Hispanic and around 42 percent being Black, the following statistics are visible in Camden, New Jersey:
- 25 percent of Hispanics live in poverty.
- Over 15 percent of Hispanics had a diagnosable mental illness.
- Only 36 percent of Hispanics versus 60 percent of whites received treatment for depression.
- Over 15 percent of Blacks had a diagnosable mental illness.
- Adult Blacks are 20 percent more likely than whites to have serious mental health concerns.
- Blacks worry about cultural competence of psychological professionals because less than two percent of the American Psychological Association members are Black.
Racial differences and disparities create various issues concerning mental illness and treatment amongst the minority populations that are so prevalent in Camden.
While the national public high school graduation rate is 84 percent, only 66 percent of Camden residents earn a high school degree or higher. Poor education is associated with more unemployment, fewer resources and social support, increased stress, and more exposure to adverse conditions and experiences that are risk factors for mental health problems. The unemployment rate in Camden is 11 percent, as opposed to the national rate of just 3.7 percent.
With 54 percent of people never married and 8 percent of people divorced, Camden lands at number two for cities with largest percentage of unmarried households and largest percentage of single-parent households. Children of unmarried parents are at risk for poor development, and those in single-parent households are more likely to have a mental illnesses.
Crime and Drugs
The crime index of Camden, New Jersey is 1107, over 800 points higher than the national number. The city is in the top five for most murders, robberies, assaults, and arsons. Illegal drug use is also a huge mental health problem for the area:
- 6 percent used an illicit drug in the past year versus 14.7 percent in the United States
- Of substance abuse admissions in New Jersey in 2016, almost 30% of those admitted for heroin were in Camden.
- The city is home to over 5,500 people using marijuana or abusing prescription drugs, cocaine, hallucinogens, or heroin.
E-counseling answers the call for improvement in these areas of life in Camden. The website provides an online directory of mental health professionals as well as resources and information about treatment.