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An Overview of Mental Health in St. Joseph, Missouri
This city was incorporated in 1845, and it soon became the head water for the westward journey. It is now the county seat of Buchanan county and the sixth largest city in Missouri. The unique park system reflects St. Josephs history of outdoor exploration, with 1,500 acres of land, the 48 parks. Citizens enjoy festivals, attractions, programs and tournaments in these areas.
Visitors appreciate a quick drive to North Kansas City and a multitude of fun activities in St. Joseph. A local library hosts weekly movies. A winery in the area provides live music. The Nature Center offers educational programs and events such as fish feeding. Tourists can participate in various experiences.
Unfortunately, St. Joseph is not all fun and games. The city faces serious mental health concerns. The city of over 76,000 people faces poverty, divorce, crime, poor education, and drug abuse. Though treatment options exist, barriers sometimes prevent people from getting the help they need.
The median income in St. Joseph is approximately $44,500 versus the median income of about $51,700 in the rest of the state. The poverty rate is 20 percent, with the largest demographic living in poverty being females between the ages of 25 and 34. Poverty in St. Joseph is high above the national rate of 12.3 percent.
These statistics are important because of the self-reinforcing cycle of poverty and mental health struggles. Living with insufficient finances increases risk factors for psychological problems. Factors might include the following:
- Sleeping and eating problems
- Fear about the future
- Difficulty concentrating
- Social withdrawal
The cycle perpetuates as these factors are worsened simultaneously with the development of or increasing struggles of mental illnesses.
St. Joseph also has a divorce rate that is shockingly above the United States rate. Over 16 percent of people in the city are divorced versus 10 percent of United States residents that are divorced. Moreover, 38 percent of children live in single-parent households, and the childhood poverty rate in the city is 24 percent.
Children of divorced parents experience increased mental health issues, such as emotional and behavioral problems and less psychological well-being than those with married parents. Parental separation is related to increased childhood depression and anxiety. Children who are younger when parents divorce more often experience, emotional conflict and regressive behaviors, such as bed wetting. When older children go through parental divorce, they often grow up faster. They may participate in early sexual activity, substance abuse, and hostile behavior.
Between 2011 and 2012, St. Joseph earned a spot on the list of top 101 cities with the largest crime index increase. Still, in 2016, the crime index score of the city was 477.1, almost 200 points above the United States average. The most common crimes include burglaries, thefts, auto thefts, and assault.
Violence brings about increased risk for mental health disorders. With a violent crime rate that is 50 percent higher than the national average, St. Joseph residents (especially those who are victims of a violent crime) may experience more of the following issues:
- Post-traumatic stress disorder
- Substance abuse
- Social withdrawal
St. Joseph, Missouri also suffers from poor education. Though 80 percent of students complete high school, only 20 percent go on to complete a Bachelor’s degree. The unemployment rate, then, is over four percent, which is higher than the national percentage. Additionally, St. Joseph public schools report test scores of 47 percent. These scores are eight percent lower than the Missouri average and five percent lower than the national average.
A good education creates opportunities for fewer mental health concerns. Such opportunities include greater income, healthier behaviors, and psychological benefits. Poor education is associated with job insecurity, low wages, and lack of assets, which are all risk factors for mental illness. Psychologically, a good education correlates with less stress, more social networks, and more social skills, such as perseverance, negotiation, and flexibility. The knowledge and skills learned in school also encourage healthy behaviors.
St. Joseph is home to one of the largest psychiatric hospitals called Northwest Missouri Psychiatric Rehabilitation Center (NMPRC). The facility provides services for adults with chronic, persistent mental illnesses. There are also a multitude of counselors in the city, with 146 mental health professionals per 100,000 people.
Unfortunately, the poverty, divorce, crime, and low education that are prevalent in the city often prevent people from seeking help. Financial concerns, stigma, and lack of knowledge are barriers to treatment.