Hand In Hand
In a recent blog, Homeless and Mental Health, it suggests that homelessness and mental health in most instances go hand in hand. Mental Health Disorders can create circumstances in which a person can become homeless and vice-versa, when being homeless can increase the instances of the individual developing a mental health disorder.
The homeless are defined by U.S. federal legislation as people who “lack a fixed, regular, and adequate nighttime residence.” Determining how many homeless people there really are remains a perennial problem. — Romeo Vitelli Ph.D.
Seeking out support and therapy for mental health disorders can be simple as typing in ‘depression chat rooms’ into a search engine to find support and therapy resources. This however is not the case amongst the homeless and transient communities with limited access to resources and technology which often results in these disorders going untreated.
- ±33% of the homeless are people with serious untreated mental illnesses
- The most common mental health disorders amongst the homeless are schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, major depression and schizoaffective disorder
- More than 30% of people released from mental institutions became homeless within 6 months of their release
- There has been a steady increase in homelessness in cities and small towns since the 70’s
The Link between Mental Health Disorders and Homelessness
To understand the link between mental health and homelessness, one must understand how the affects and disruptions mental health disorders can have of the daily lives of an individual with any one of many mental health disorders. The symptoms and side effects can include:
- The inability to carry out basic essential self-care tasks such as hygiene and household management
- The challenges associated with maintaining acceptable work performance or the inability to keep employment
- Withdrawing and isolating themselves which results in not being able to maintain relationships with friends and family
- Increased substance abuse or self-medicating which can lead to increased addictions which add their own set of challenges in addition to those presented by mental health disorders.
The nation’s homeless are typically incapable of paying for emergency and other services out of pocket, often having little to no income with which to fund exorbitantly expensive bills. Additionally, the homeless are usually without any sort of health insurance. — John Smith Ph.D.
Painting the Picture
A recent report by the National Alliance on Mental Illness indicates that:
- Approximately 9.8 million adults in the U.S. experiences a serious mental illness that affects or interferes with one or more major life activities in a given year
- Approximately 26% of the homeless adults staying in shelters are living with serious mental health disorders
- 70% of the youth in juvenile facilities have at least one mental health condition
- Less than half of adults in the U.S. with a mental health disorderhave received assistance from health services
- Research shows that Mental illness was the third largest cause of homelessness for single adults
The Result of Lack of treatment
For the most part, people with untreated mental disorders have difficulty living alone or fitting in with families and communities. Often as a result of the signs, symptoms and effects of these disorders, these individuals are unable to participate in the simplest tasks self-care and self-preservation.
It is also not uncommon in some communities that people with mental disorders are shunned and face the challenges and difficulties of discrimination. As a result of the combined results of the symptoms and side effects of untreated mental disorders, many become homeless.
Many believe that homelessness is the result of lack of motivation, substance abuse, or poverty. But the reality is that homelessness is also the result of abuse, trauma, and mental illness among many other factors. —
There Is Always Hope
“THOUSANDS WITH MENTAL ILLNESS END UP HOMELESS, BUT THERE ARE APPROACHES THAT CAN HELP OUT.” Rick Jervis, USA TODAY
Excerpt from The Cost Of Not Caring
“Dorothy Edwards knows the despair and paranoia that cripple the mentally ill from seeking help and finding an apartment. For eight years, Edwards, 56, wandered the streets of Pasadena, Calif., sleeping in alleys, scouring Dumpsters for scraps of food and smoking meth to fend off a crushing depression. Her teeth were rotting, and sores broke out all her over body. She was sexually assaulted repeatedly and had her belongings stolen multiple times.
When things got truly bleak, Edwards would check herself into the psych ward of a hospital, only to be back on the streets within days. Various friends ravaged emotionally by the homeless life had flung themselves off the Colorado Street Bridge in Pasadena, known locally as “suicide bridge.” She considered using the bridge herself, she says.”