The relationship between homelessness and mental illness is complex and often the two are intertwined. The reality of homelessness in America is still met with scrutiny as some people believe living on the streets is simply the result of problems with drugs or an unwillingness to work. However, other causes for being homeless include abuse and mental health problems.
The reality is, it’s not uncommon for those with severe, untreated mental health issues to end up on the streets, and a great number are single parents and children. A PsychCentral blog presents 2013 data from the National Alliance to End Homelessness, which shows that approximately 250,000 families have no roof over their heads, many of whom feel alone and don’t know where to turn. Seven percent of this group resides outside urban areas where it may be more difficult to find help.
Sadly, one of every 45 kids in the U.S. is homeless. Some live out of vehicles or turn to public places like libraries for shelter. And going undetected isn’t extremely difficult with the use of a PO box or another’s residential address. According to the National Center on Family Homelessness, kids without shelter are more apt to experience medical problems including ear infections, irritation of the GI tract, asthma, and other breathing problems. They are also at triple the risk of behavioral problems as their non-homeless peers.
Having a loved one with a mental illness can be difficult, especially if the person hasn’t received a diagnosis or refuses treatment. A lot of family members are left feeling helpless, particularly when mental health issues lead the person to be hospitalized, imprisoned, or homeless. There are, however, ways for families and friends to help.
Family Guidance Center is a great resource for questions regarding mental health. Mental health professionals there can put you in touch with other organizations which may be able to offer additional assistance. Mental illness and homelessness are not conditions to be ashamed of, but to be addressed with the goal of management and recovery. Contact Family Guidance Center today to begin working together on a plan for assessment, diagnosis and treatment.