An Overview of Mental Health in Gulfport, Mississippi
Gulfport is a scenic little town characterized by white sandy beaches, miles of blue skies and a horizon worthy of a postcard. In terms of weather, Gulfport isn’t half bad, earning a B+ rating on AreaVibes. The gulf town also earned an A in amenities and another B in cost of living. Based on those stats, you might think that Gulfport is a wholesome, healthy place to live. However, looks can be deceiving.
In terms of crime, education, employment and housing – four areas that have a profound effect on a person’s mental health and wellness – the beach city received all Fs. DataUSA’s findings back these letter grades with some astounding numbers.
In a population of 71,265 individuals, the majority of which are 35.2 years of age, there are only 29,754 working individuals. Of course, some of the individuals may work outside of the area, but a commute, as many studies suggest, takes a toll on one’s mental health. The median household income in Gulfport is just $37,037, which is almost half of the income per capita in the United States. It is also far lower than the average household income in all of the United States, in all of Mississippi and of all the surrounding areas. It is no surprise then that the rate of poverty in Gulfport is 25.5 percent, much higher than the nation’s average of 14 percent. What this data indicates is that there may be a high rate of mental health issues in the area.
Possible Causes of Mental Health Conditions
Upon examining the income and poverty statistics, it is clear to see that Gulfport’s greatest risk factor for mental disease is poverty. Countless studies reveal that there is a strong correlation between poverty and mental illness. In many instances, poverty arises because of mental illness, but poverty has also been known to cause it. For instance, those who live in poverty are more likely to partake in unhealthy lifestyle habits that include excessive drinking and smoking, drug use, fast food, minimal exercise and crime. Individuals who live with minimal means are also more likely to have children out of wedlock, experience teen pregnancy, drop out of school and go on to rely on welfare instead of work.
While it is unclear whether poverty causes these behaviors or if people become poor because of their tendencies to want to partake in these habits, a Brookings.edu study does indicate that there are crucial behavioral differences between wealthy families and poor ones. Two of the crucial three behaviors that the report mentions are education and work, areas in which Gulfport earned an F grade.
Gulfport residents have additional disadvantages. Some of those disadvantages are as follows:
- Obesity: 3 percent of Harrison County residents are obese. Obesity leads to social isolation, depression, low self-esteem and a slew of physical health issues.
- HIV Diagnoses: There were approximately 372 HIV diagnoses per 100,000 individuals in Harrison County. An HIV diagnosis can lead to fear, anxiety, depression and suicidal thoughts.
- Excessive Drinking:1 percent of adults in Harrison County admit to drinking excessively. Excessive drinking leads to obesity, anxiety, depression, lack of mental clarity, job loss and more. It also leads to other harmful behaviors such as poor eating, lack of exercise and drug use.
- Violent Crimes: As mentioned above, poverty leads to crime, and Gulfport’s violent crime rates back this. In Harrison County, there were 249.6 violent crimes per 100,000 individuals, which is high for the state.
Availability of Mental Health Care in Gulfport
WLOX recently did a report on the growing concerns over mental care options available on the Gulf Coast. According to the report, one of Gulfport’s mental health facilities announced its plan to stop providing outpatient services. The facility made its announcement just weeks before closing its doors, which meant patients and their families were forced to either scramble to find another nearby provider or to do without the much-needed services for the time being. The clinic was one of the only remaining clinics to offer mental health care in the area.