One of the most significant problems facing the United States is homelessness. According to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, nearly 600,000 people experienced homelessness in the United States in 2020 – a 2.2% increase since 2019. Despite being one of the richest nations in the world, the problem of homelessness in the U.S. only seems to grow year after year. Part of this is due to how state and federal agencies attempt to grapple with and solve the problem. Many of those who are homeless are living with significant mental disorders, which many agencies are not equipped to handle and help with. In order to aid the homeless population, more work must be done to understand and address mental disorders within homeless communities.
Despite being one of the most significant problems in the United States, homelessness is largely misunderstood by most Americans. Homelessness is almost always a temporary situation. However, many Americans consider homelessness a permanent state of being, thinking that once a person becomes homeless that they will more than likely remain homeless.
Many Americans also consider homelessness to be the result of a person’s poor decision-making. While this can sometimes be the case, most often it is not. Most often, a person becomes homeless due to uncontrollable circumstances in their life that they are unable to overcome – whether on their own, with the help of others, or even with the help of state and federal agencies.
Overall, the term “homeless” can apply to individuals experiencing drastically different situations. For example, one person may be homeless after losing their job while another may be homeless after moving out due to a break-up with their partner. There are a number of causes of homelessness – some of which come without warning. One of the many causes of homelessness can be attributed to a person’s mental health, including if they have any mental disorders. However, mental disorders can also be a result of homelessness.
How Big is the Problem?
The prevalence of mental disorders among those who are homeless is larger than many people realize. According to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, about 45% of people who were homeless in 2015 were living with some type of mental health issue or disorder. Furthermore, 25% of people who were homeless in 2015 were living with serious mental health issues. While these numbers are incredibly alarming, they are also somewhat unsurprising. For decades, research on homeless communities has shown that homeless individuals are disproportionately affected by mental health issues and disorders.
Most Common Types of Mental Disorders Among the Homeless Population
Mental disorders among the homeless population can range in severity and seriousness. However, some of the most common mental disorders among the homeless include:
- Bipolar disorder
- Different anxiety disorders
- Substance abuse disorders
- Including alcohol use disorder, opioid use disorder, etc.
Although these are among the most common mental disorders found in homeless communities, these are not the only ones. People in homeless communities can be affected by any type of mental health issue, mental illness, or mental disorder.
The Connection Between Mental Disorders and Homelessness
Understanding the connection between mental disorders and homelessness is no small feat. The relationship is not always one of cause and effect. Most often, it is a complex, two-way relationship.
In some cases, a person’s mental health issues can lead to cognitive and/or behavioral problems. These problems can make it hard for the person to maintain stable employment or even carry out their daily activities outside of work. These individuals may then end up becoming homeless. However, this situation is not solely the fault of the individual. Researchers also note that a lack of low-income housing or assistance from state and federal governments and agencies in these situations are also to blame.
However, the combination of mental disorders and homelessness does not always occur this way. In some cases, a person may develop a mental disorder after becoming homeless due to different circumstances or issues. In either case, the combination of mental disorders and homelessness can create a situation that is extremely difficult to break free from, especially without some form of assistance.
How to Address the Problem of Mental Disorders Among the Homeless Population
Addressing the problem of homelessness in the United States and other nations begins with empathy and creating trust. Reaching out to the members of this community for no other reason than to help them can create such trust and create change. Once this is done, one must address the mental health issues and disorders within homeless communities. If these issues and disorders are not treated, the issue of homelessness may be lessened but will ultimately remain.
The following are just a few of the many ways communities, along with state and federal agencies, can help to effectively address the needs of the homeless, including mental health needs:
- Improving housing access
- Employing well-trained staffs at rehabilitation facilities and shelters
- Utilizing client-centered services that tailor treatment to an individual’s needs
- Integrating services in order to treat each issue, not just one
- Ensuring comprehensive services to treat a person’s every need, not just basic needs
Individuals who are currently homeless or in danger of becoming homeless are just like any other member of society. They have complex thoughts, feelings, needs, and lives in general. Those who are homeless must be treated like any other member of society. If they are not, that society cannot affect any meaningful change or put an end to homelessness.
Searching for Effective Mental Health Treatment?
Mental health issues, homelessness, and the combination of the two are among the most significant issues affecting those living in the United States today. If you or a loved one are seeking mental health treatment, help is available in your area! At Knoxville Recovery Center, our team of mental health professionals and addiction specialists offer several kinds of mental health treatment and therapy as well as treatment for a variety of substance use disorders. Contact us today for more information!