featured Inclusion Poverty

Kendall Worth: Double stigma, when you’re poor and have mental health concerns

KJIPUKTUK (Halifax) – People on welfare and people who live with mental health issues both face a lot of stigma. Recently I met a young woman who has to deal with both kinds of stigma. She asked that we don’t name her.

She comes from a family who are strong believers of the ignorant ideas about people on welfare talked about in this story here, Ignorant ideas about welfare I hear a lot, as well as this follow-up, More ignorant ideas about welfare that people actually believe.

Psychiatric disabilities are a known barrier to full time employment. In her case she experienced learning difficulties in school. Also, she lives with depression and anxiety.  

She is able to hold down part time work. But a full time job would simply be too much.  She works three hours a day, for a total of 15 hours a week.

This is what she wants the world to know: “even though I cannot work a full time job, I do manage to stay mentally healthy.”

She cannot handle situations which interfere with focusing on major tasks, or where  pressure is high. As well, she needs to take more frequent breaks to stretch, walk around, get fresh air

She works her three hour shift and for the rest of the day she takes care of her mental health. She goes for long walks and sometimes she swims.

Her co-workers tend not to believe that she lives with disabilities because they are invisible disabilities.

Some people in her life make the following rude comments right to her face:

  • “Go out and get a better job,”not understanding that she faces barriers in doing so
  • “If you cannot work full time like normal people then you must need home care and home support services coming into your apartment
  • “You are a just coward who is afraid to face the world”
  • When she got checked into a psychiatric ward, she got accused of staying in housing for people who do not want to work, and that happened not once but twice.

For now she needs to work, because she needs the money. She gets to keep $300 of her earnings (people without disabilities only get to keep $150). Soon this amount will go up, and she is excited about this.

But the accusations don’t make it any easier.

If Community Services provided enough money to live, then maybe she would not need her three hour a day job, she says.


If you can, please support the Nova Scotia Advocate so that it can continue to cover issues such as poverty, racism, exclusion, workers’ rights and the environment in Nova Scotia. A paywall is not an option, since it would exclude many readers who don’t have any disposable income at all. We rely entirely on one-time donations and a tiny but mighty group of dedicated monthly sustainers.

Subscribe to the Nova Scotia Advocate weekly digest and never miss an article again.