Structural Violence, Social Justice, and Mental Illness

‘Structural violence’ is the term given to forces such as poverty, racism, inequality and discrimination which necessarily have an influence on people’s health including their mental health. These factors not only affect patterns of susceptibility and exposure but can also limit the effectiveness of health care systems and reduce access to services, especially among the poor.

Both homelessness and imprisonment are substantially more common among people with mental illness than the general population. This situation is, for the most part, not attributable to mental illness itself, but rather to the ways in which mental illness is patterned, interpreted and treated by societies. This results in denial of rights, denial of opportunity and broad-based social exclusion of people with mental illness and their families. Let’s consider homelessness first. […]

By Brendan Kelly, M.D., Ph.D.


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