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JWU HSC 1120 - Mental Health in the Homeless

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Acosta 1Lorraine AcostaHSC 11207 April 2019Mental Health in the HomelessAccording to the CDC, mental health is an important part of overall health and well-being. It includes our emotional, psychological, and social well-being. It affects how we think, feel, and it also determines how we deal with stress, relate to others, and make healthy choices. Mental health is important at every stage of life, from childhood and adolescence through adulthood. According to a 2015 assessment by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, 565,000 people were homeless on a given night in the United States. At a minimum, 25% of these people were seriously mentally ill, and 45% had any mental illness. The most common types of mental illness among the homeless are affective disorders like depression and bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, anxiety disorders and substance abuse disorders, which are among the most common types of mental illness in the homeless population (Tarr, 2018).Many researchers say that the connection between homelessness and mental illness is rather complicated, much like a two-way relationship. An individual’s mental illness may lead to cognitive and behavioral problems that make it difficult to earn a stable income or carry out dailyactivities in ways that encourage stable housing. Several studies have shown that individuals with mental illnesses often find themselves homeless primarily as the result of poverty and a lackof low-income housing. The combination of mental illness and homelessness also can lead to other factors such as increased levels of alcohol and drug abuse and violent victimization that reinforce the connection between health and homelessness (Tarr, 2018).Studies do show that homelessness can be a traumatic event that influences a person’sAcosta 2symptoms of mental illness. Having ever been homeless and the time spent homeless can be related to higher levels of psychiatric distress, higher levels of alcohol use and lower levels of perceived recovery in people with previous mental illness. Generally, homelessness among people with mental illness can lead to more encounters with police and the courts. For example, rates of contact with the criminal justice system and victimization among homeless adults with severe symptoms, like psychosis, are higher than among housed adults with severe mental illness. Homeless adults with mental illness who experienced abuse or neglect in childhood are more likely to be arrested for a crime or be the victim of crime (Tarr, 2018). One of the biggest impacts of homelessness on mental health comes through its effect on the mothers of families. To illustrate, mothers who experience postpartum depression during the first year after birth are at higher risk for homelessness or factors leading to homelessness such as evictions or frequent moves in the two to three years after the postpartum year. One of the largest studies of children and homelessness, where professionals studied 17,000 children in Denmark, found a higher incidence of psychiatric disorders, including substance abuse, among adolescents with a mother or both parents with a history of homelessness. Programs that provide long-term, stable housing for people with mental illnesses can help to improve mental health outcomes. A 2015 study concluded that services that deliver cognitive and social skill training, particularly in developing and maintaining relationships, would be useful in helping people with mental illnesses and homelessness regain housing (Tarr, 2018).Works Cited“Learn About Mental Health - Mental Health - CDC.” Centers for Disease Control andAcosta 3Prevention, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, www.cdc.gov/mentalhealth/learn/index.htm.Tarr, Peter. “Homelessness and Mental Illness: A Challenge to Our Society.” Brain & Behavior Research Foundation, 24 Jan. 2019,


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