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Dr. Denise Dietz
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An Overview of Mental Health in Yuma, Arizona
Yuma, Arizona is not short of things to do when visiting or living in the area. The city hosts events and festivals to encourage community. Museums and history centers exist for fun and interesting education. Outdoor activities are easy to find, whether you want to go birding or embark on a multiday adventure. Yuma has something for everyone; however, much of the population lives with poor health, low education, abundant crime, unemployment, and poverty.
The population of over 93,000 people contains two main races: 59% Hispanic and 34% white. Of the people living in Yuma, over 45% are non-English speakers. The large percentage of Hispanics leads to mental health concerns.
Reports show a larger percentage of Hispanics than other races feeling sad, hopeless, and worthless, common symptoms of depression. A higher rate of Hispanics also reports nervousness and restlessness all or some of the time, which is common in anxiety disorders. Despite these statistics, fewer Hispanics than white Americans are receiving treatment for major depressive episodes, and suicide attempts for Hispanic high school girls are 50% greater than attempts by white females in the same age group.
General Health and Education
The city of Yuma, Arizona suffers from low education and some of the worst general health in the country. Both factors increase the likelihood of mental health concerns.
- The leading cause of death in those aged 45 and older is chronic heart disease.
- The average test score in the city is 35%, which is 29% lower than the national average.
- The student to teacher ratio is 19:1 versus 16:1 across the United States.
- The county that Yuma resides in (Yuma County) has a larger percentage of obese adults than Arizona as a whole.
- The county is number 7 on the list of top counties with the lowest percentage of people having seen a dentist.
- Yuma county is number 47 on the list of top counties with the lowest general health score
Depression coincides often with poor physical health. Then, the mental health and physical conditions combine to further decrease wellbeing. For example, having heart disease and depression can reduce social interaction twice as much as having just one of the two conditions.
Those with low education are more likely to report struggles with anxiety and depression. Additionally, the lower educated population participates in an increased number of health risk factors, such as smoking, illegal drug use, poor diet, and lack of exercise. The self-perpetuating cycle of poor health, low education, and mental health disorders spins out of control.
With a United States average of 283.6 on the crime index, Yuma has had an average of anywhere from 300.1 to 422.5 since 2000 indicating a much higher rate of crime than the US average. The rates of violent crimes and property crimes are most different from the national average, and assault and theft follow closely behind. Research shows a correlation between mental health and criminal behaviors, a relationship that can be seen clearly in Yuma, Arizona.
Poverty and Employment
Living circumstances pose increased poverty and employment challenges to the people of Yuma.
- 12% of people are divorced or separated, and 30.5% are never married.
- 36% of children across the state live in single parent
- 20% of the population lives in poverty, and 30% are categorized as low income.
- The rate of childhood poverty across the state is 20.4%.
- The unemployment rate in Yuma is 6.7%, which is 2% higher than the state and national rates.
With the high percentages of divorce and single parent households, it can be difficult to care for kids and find high-paying jobs. As a result, many people are unemployed, live in poverty, or experience both. Unfortunately, those burdened with life in disadvantaged areas have little strength left to simply perform daily tasks, leading to mental health challenges.
Barriers to Care
Unfortunately, there are only about 50 mental illness professionals per 100,000 people. In addition to the scarcity of resources to care for the psychological needs of the population, 17% of youth in Yuma were uninsured in 2014, with 22.1% of men and 18.4% of women being uninsured. The poverty and lack of insurance combined with the insufficient health care means that the mentally ill often do not receive the help they need.