Trauma, Mental Illness, and Poverty: A Vicious Cycle


Trauma, Mental Illness, and Poverty: A Vicious Cycle

Mental Illness, the invisible disability, indubitably wreaks havoc on the lives of individuals; however, public recognition of, and empathy for, its destructive properties leave much to be desired.

Poverty, trauma, and mental illness are inextricably linked, with the trauma typically beginning in childhood (Klest, 2012). Childhood post-traumatic stress can culminate in numerous mental health issues, including but not limited to mood disorders, substance abuse disorders, personality disorders, psychotic disorders, and dissociative disorders. Poverty can create or exacerbate traumatic experiences in the lives of children, who develop mental illnesses in result, and subsequently perpetuate their poverty in adulthood (Klest, 2012). Mental health issues can result in halted or incomplete education as well as unemployment, due to mental health stigma, discrimination, lack of support or adequate mental healthcare, and difficulty managing daily tasks through mental health symptoms and flares. Naturally, unemployment greatly increases the risk of homelessness.

How shall we, as a community, attempt to tackle such a complex and cyclical issue? Firstly, the recognition that life circumstances, individual health, and societal forces such as discrimination play a significant role in the soaring state of homelessness in our community…is absolutely paramount. In order to sustain our community and aid our neighbors, we must not stop at the recognition; we must intervene to break this cycle for as many individuals as possible, as compassionately as possible.

At Travelers Aid of Greater New Orleans, we aim to alleviate the issue of homelessness in our community, with daily adherence to the aforementioned principles when serving our clients. We aspire to cultivate the resilience and strengths of our clients by providing resources on the path to better health and self-sufficiency.


Victoria Davidson, Intern at Travelers Aid Society of GNO
June 7th, 2018


Klest, B. (2012). Childhood Trauma, Poverty, and Adult Victimization. Psychological Trauma: Theory, Research, Practice, and Policy, 4(3), 245-251. doi:10.1037/a0024468



Would you like to help us with our mission?