The link between mental illness and homelessness is strong in our country. Certain types of mental illness can make it difficult to hold down a job, manage one’s finances, or apply healthy coping skills when life seems to be spiraling out of control.
Turning a blind eye or pretending the situation doesn’t exist only promises to make it worse. Each year the number of homeless individuals rises, making it difficult for mental health centers and local shelters to accommodate those in need. While mental illness increases a person’s risk of homelessness in America threefold, there is now a new victim – children and young adults of parents who are having difficulty making ends meet.
In Massachusetts alone, the homeless population numbers close to 20,000 people, an increase of 14 percent since the year 2010. More alarming, the number of preschool to high school-aged students in the state without shelter is twice what it was just 10 years ago.
In small towns, the problem may not be as evident. However, in cities like Berkeley, California, it’s not uncommon to have up to 1,200 individuals making their bed on the streets each night. Studies show that approximately 33 percent of our nation’s homeless live with a serious mental disorder such as schizophrenia for which they are not receiving treatment.
Treating mental illness is not a one-and-done resolution. In California, about 25 percent of those released from a mental health facility eventually ends up homeless. In New York, that figure rises to 38 percent after only six short months of discharge. Sadly, the combination of mental illness and homelessness too often creates the perfect storm for incarceration, which further decreases a person’s chance of receiving proper treatment and can lead to future re-offenses.
Family Guidance Center wants to help break the cycle. Learn the facts about mental illness, and support local efforts to stamp out homelessness. If you know someone who could benefit from mental health services, contact Family Guidance Center.