Surely being subject to discrimination is damaging to the psyche, often it is internalized and held in the subconscious. Also, it is difficult to maintain a sense of well being when one worries about losing their housing or where their next meal is coming from.
I made a post just yesterday about the barriers to finding work and overcoming poverty:
Bipartisan Poverty Shaming: The Moynihan Report at 50 (see the comments).
The stress and desperation associated with poverty has been correlated to psychosomatic illnesses. To the unemployed, healthcare is not affordable and Medicaid is difficult to get. For those under-employed, whose employers do not furnish healthcare at all, or at a reasonable rate, it is even more difficult to qualify for Medicaid. Some people turn to substance abuse or comfort foods to escape or try to quell their pain.
Discrimination and racism inundates the culture of these backward towns and it hangs in the environment like toxic smog. The antiquated, backward attitudes harbored by certain whites are difficult to overcome. They feel their traditional ways of thinking are under attack, so they fight with increasing intensity to maintain the status quo. Some of the Old South tourist towns are marketed on a racist, plantation "heritage!"
Before losing my job when my employer (a family friend) became ill, I worked in the field of family law and social justice. I am very well aware of the discrimination, and the subsequent anguish that goes on in the small town in which I live. I have experienced obstacles myself having to leave college due to financial constraints, and try finding work in my field of choice without the prerequisite degree. It has been a struggle trying to move back to the major city that is home to me, and where full time work is available. Lack of mobility indeed sets one back and I sympathize with those who have it much worse than I do.