It’s a hard statistic to face but approximately one-third of the total homeless population suffers serious, untreated mental illness, according to a research summary put together by the Treatment Advocacy Center. It’s startling to think that one of the most entrenched and difficult problems to overcome in America isn’t merely a class distinction but a public health epidemic. Today we want to take a look at the relationship between homelessness and mental health and why they play into one another.
Breaking the Cycle
Part of the problem is that for some, mental illness exists as a continuous, neverending cycle. Their illness prevents them from being able to hold down a steady job or keep a reliable source of income, while also preventing them from seeking out help or better themselves in any way. The Treatment Advocacy published one statistic that supports this: in Massachusetts and Ohio, 27 and 36 percent of people released from mental institutions became homeless within 6 months.
How Can Mental Health Impact Us?
Some of the serious mental illnesses we’re talking about include schizophrenia, schizoaffective disorder, bipolar disorder, and major depression. These illnesses can make it extremely difficult–if not outright impossible–for a sufferer to attend a job regularly, maintain relationships with their family and friends, or even engage in day-to-day responsibilities. Without the proper systems in place to care for these individuals, it’s no wonder that they’re forced into the streets and become another statistic in the world of homelessness.
How Can We Solve It?
One major misconception seems to be that taking steps to properly house and treat those who are suffering from mental illness and have become homeless as a result is that it would be too costly. The reality is that homelessness is already costing society quite a bit. In fact, “In 2001, a University of Pennsylvania study that examined 5,000 homeless people with mental illnesses in New York City found that they cost taxpayers an average of $40,500 a year for their use of emergency rooms, psychiatric hospitals, shelters, and prisons.” Whether we realize it or not, we are already investing large amounts of money into an ineffective response to this nationwide problem. Instead, we ought to focus on giving individuals in need counseling services, access to hospitals and medication, and more than anything, a better sense of understanding and compassion for them.
Talk to My Brother’s Keeper About Helping in Baltimore
To learn more about our youth programs, Attendance Affirmation Project, how to help, or to find out more about our services including hot meal programs, employment assistance, health services and identifying possible emergency shelter, call MBK today at 410-644-3194. You can also follow our official MBK page on Google+, Pinterest, Twitter, and Facebook, to stay up to date on our center’s progress and upcoming events in the community.