An Overview of Mental Health in Valdosta, Georgia
Located in southern Georgia, near the Florida border, Valdosta is a city of 56,085, as of the latest estimate, and the county seat of Lowndes County. Valdosta is known for sports, such as high school and college football and wakeboarding, and its annual Azalea Festival in honor of the flowering shrub that grows in profusion.
However, despite the fun, flowers, and festivals, Valdosta is a community that faces many serious challenges, some of which may have an effect on mental health.
Demographic Data and Socioeconomic Profile
Approximately half of the population of Valdosta, 50.9 percent, is African American, while 40.2 percent is Caucasian. Hispanics make up 5.2 percent of the population. Female residents have a marked majority over male residents with 52.7 percent of the population. In terms of resident age, Valdosta is a fairly young city with a median of 28.2 years, compared with the median of 36.5 for the state of Georgia.
Estimated median household income in Valdosta is extremely low at $31,199, well below the medians for the United States ($55,322), Georgia ($51,037), and Lowndes County ($38,915). Home values in Valdosta are also low, with a median of $124,711 compared to $166,800 statewide. On the positive side, however, the cost of living in Valdosta is lower than in the rest of Georgia by 5 percent.
Over one-third of Valdosta residents, 33.7 percent, live in poverty. This is almost three times the national poverty rate of 12.3 percent. African Americans are both the largest ethnic group represented in the population and the largest ethnicity living in poverty, but it is worth pointing out that the percentage of African Americans living in poverty, 58.7 percent, is higher than their share of the total population. Female residents aged 18 to 24 are the largest demographic living in poverty when analyzed according to age and gender.
Factors Affecting Mental Health in Valdosta, Georgia
When asked to identify the most significant public health concerns affecting the area of southern Georgia, community leaders ranked mental health at number four. A number of significant factors can have an impact on mental health:
- Physical Health: There is often an intricate relationship between physical health and mental health, and a decrease in one often correlates with a decline in the other. Lowndes County sees a high number of chlamydia diagnoses every year, and HIV and obesity are both moderately prevalent.
- Alcohol Abuse: A behavioral health issue with the potential to affect physical health as well, excessive drinking is moderately prevalent in Lowndes County at 15.3 percent. Four percent of adults in Valdosta have participated in heavy drinking, including 6.3 percent of adults aged 18 to 44, 2.4 percent of women, and 5.8 percent of men.
- Education: The percentages of people in Valdosta who hold at least a high school diploma or at least a bachelor’s degree are 83.2 percent and 27.1 percent, respectively, each of which is lower than the corresponding national percentage.
- Divorce: Of the five communities in Lowndes County, Valdosta has the second-highest divorce rate at 13.66 percent.
- Crime: While the rate of violent crimes committed in Valdosta is comparable to the statewide rate, the overall crime rate of Valdosta is higher than Georgia’s by 103 percent. When compared to the national average, the crime index in Valdosta is consistently higher, though it has reduced and moderated somewhat over the past 10 years.
Access to Mental Health Care in Valdosta, Georgia
Several counties in southern Georgia, including Lowndes, have been designated mental health professional shortage areas by the Georgia Department of Community Health. This has been determined on the basis of the ratio between county residents and mental health providers: the higher the ratio, the greater the shortage. The resident-to-provider ratio in Lowndes County is 720 to one. This is significantly better than nearby counties of Brooks (15,420 to one), Lanier (10,370 to one), and Clinch (6,830 to one) and slightly better than the statewide ratio of 850 residents for every one mental health provider.
Meet Your Challenges
Living in Valdosta provides you with a comparative advantage when it comes to seeking out a mental health provider. The challenge of finding a suitable therapist or counselor in your immediate area is less great than in nearby counties. You can make the process easier by taking advantage of E-Counseling.com’s online therapist directory.