Homelessness Among other things, Mental Illness in America

Mental illness. To some such a condition is taboo, and for others, widely misunderstood. Mental illness affects nearly 26.2% of the American population, or about 57.7 million people. Of those that are homeless, mentally ill individuals constitute approximately one fifth of the homeless population.

This trend of mentally ill individuals ending up on the streets began somewhere in the 1950’s. States such as California closed down many of the psychiatric hospitals that primarily housed mentally ill patients, and effectively moved them into various other care facilities such as nursing homes or even adult foster homes. With this also came the rise in homeless individuals, San Jose being a prime example.

In an excerpt from an article written by Dr. E. Fuller Torrey (link is in California), “California was the first state to witness not only an increase in homelessness associated with deinstitutionalization but also an increase in incarceration and episodes of violence.” This furthers the argument that with the closing of facilities, these individuals are more prone to becoming homeless, as well as being incarcerated.

Fast forward to today, we do have more of an awareness of mental health issues, and organizations such as Bell Let’s Talk and NCMHR, try to provide help and support to the mentally ill community. This may very well be one way to help these individuals, but it seems that the stigma surrounding mental illness may have indeed seeped into our government as much as it has into our society.

According to Mother Jones, the spending on resources for mentally ill individuals has been slashed, varying from state to state (you can see the info here). This means that the government is not spending enough on resources to provide the help and treatment these individuals may depend on.

Furthermore, when looking at the laws revolving around this issue, the desintitutionalization process began with the Community Mental Health Centers Act of 1963, which in turn pushed for the relocation of many individuals in psychiatric hospitals into other facilities (like what happened in California). This meant that admittance of individuals into these hospitals became more selective.

Moreover, with the more recent trend of shootings here in the United States, more emphasis is being placed on having doctors report mentally ill individuals that are a “danger” to others. This means that the patient-practitioner privacy becomes curtailed, unfairly targeting the mentally ill community. The problem is, mentally ill individuals are more likely to be the victims of violent crimes than they are of committing them. (more info from this article here)

Going back to the original point, mental illness is a real issue affecting our society, and we need more resources to make sure that these individuals get the support that they need, physically, mentally, from the community and the government.

When there are programs like Servants Center exist, along with those that recognize the needs of this portion of the homeless community, change is not that far out of our grasp. What we need now, is the proper legislation to support the needs of these individuals, as well as the proper care to make sure they stay off the streets.

Mental illness is a serious issue affecting millions, and when we fail to provide these individuals with the support and treatments they require, we are neglecting and hurting a unique and misunderstood part of our communities.

Sometimes when I pass by a homeless person, I wonder why, why are they here on the street, and what could have been done to prevent this? Mental illness is just one aspect, domestic violence and abuse being another, as well as substance abuse coming in as a big contributor as well. I just focused on mental illness because of a conversation I had earlier, and I thought it was important to bring some sort of recognition to the issue plaguing so many. 

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22 comments

  1. Great post. It’s as though homeless people suffering from mental illness have two strikes against them, making society doubly blind to their struggles.

    Despite the ever increasing number of people suffering from mental illness, people still find the topic a difficult one to discuss, which often leaves people abandoned to suffer alone.

    One of the most tragic issues relating to mental illness is the number of people suffering from mental illness who are being murdered by police. We’ve recently had a couple of incidents here in Canada that have been particularly shocking. Situations in which the police unnecessarily resorted to deadly violence without trying to deescalate the situation. And only a couple of days ago a 17 year old girl suffering from mental illness was shot several times after entering a Texas police station.

    The scary thing is that the way things are going, we’re probably going to be seeing a lot more homeless and mental illness if we don’t start making some drastic changes

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    1. That’s very true indeed. What we need to do is first to get over the stigma associated with mental illness as well as homelessness (because not everyone is homeless because of a drug addiction), and to educate the public on why it matters.

      By neglecting these two groups, often so interconnected, we are neglecting a large part of our communities. Another thing we must focus is providing the right resources early on to children suffering from mental illness, thus reducing the likelihood that they’ll fall into troubles later on in life.

      This is actually something I’ve had a discussion on with my peers. We write for the school newspaper and its something we wanted the administration to put more of a focus on. Health resources for students that need them, both physical and mental.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. This issue is going to become critical with the number of soldiers returning from our never-ending wars, combined with the impending crash of our economy. We are going to see huge increases in both mental illness and homelessness.

        Are you a journalism student?

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      2. Only for my high school newspaper :), I haven’t decided on a career yet

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      3. One of life’s many difficult choices. But it’s great that you are are getting involved with your school paper.

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      4. How did you decide your major? Assuming you already graduated from a four year

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      5. I was in my thirties when I went to university, so by that time I knew what I was interested in.

        I did my undergrad in philosophy, and then later did my masters in journalism.

        Liked by 1 person

      6. By the way, did your school ever have soldiers come and try to get kids to enlist? It’s alittle freaky when I see them at my school with their nicely set up table and fancy pamphlets, kids don’t know what they’re getting into

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      7. No. The military isn’t quite as pervasive in Canada as it is in America.

        What’s sad is how many kids are almost forced to join the military, because it is their only hope of going to school or getting a half way decent job.

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      8. Unfortunately thats true. Someone I know is willing to join the navy so that they can pay for a four year college afterwards.

        Canada seems quite uninvolved in militaristic affairs from my viewpoint but I could be wrong. Im afraid of the day that this becomes a norm

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  2. Canada used to be known as peacekeepers, but with our current Prime Minister, Stephen Harper, we have been increasing our role in wars around the world.

    Harper is the worst PM in Canadian history. He is a neo-con at heart and rapidly turning our country into a fascist state. Fortunately we have elections this year.

    I feel bad for your friend, joining the navy so they can pay for school. Who knows where they might end up serving. It’s not fair that people many people are forced to do this in order to get and education

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  3. Great post – very informative. You have one of my favorite blogs on here by far. Great work – keep it up! You are a great writer and have some really great views.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you 🙂 Being a much younger writer than alot of people on here Im glad to hear the encouragement!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Just because you’re young doesn’t negate the fact that you have a lot of talent! You have a real knack for this stuff at least in my opinion – I hope you keep at it. And besides im young too!

        Liked by 1 person

      2. The next time I can access the admin part of my site. I’d like to put your blog on my list of great websites – if you don’t mind!

        Liked by 1 person

      3. That would be really great 🙂 I would definitely appreciate that. Thank you

        Liked by 1 person

      4. Of course!

        Liked by 1 person

  4. […] looking at the mental illness related aspect, the victims are sometimes homeless (which is another stigma entirely), and are targeted by common citizens to law […]

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  5. This is a global problem. Being on the streets is extremely stressful and people become desperate. Just imagine – you have nowhere to go. Nobody is waiting for you, nothing to eat and what you can receive is only the humiliating compassion from your peers. After a while you start to smell bad – no clothes, no money to change and no chance to find a job. You go and go and see how people avoid you. You see everyday how the system needs you and the same time is rejecting you. You can not talk to people, as nobody will listen to you. Sometimes you can be served with a cup of tea or coffee by different charity groups. and there is not a place on this world for you to go. When night is coming you have to find a place to sleep and some nights is practically impossible to find it. Rain, snow, hunger and cold can kill you any time…

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I agree, this is a severe issue that isn’t only growing around the United States but in the rest of the world too. Ive talked to homeless people in the city closest to where I live and they all say that permanent housing as well as criminalization of homeless people seem to be some of the biggest issues plaguing them. On top of that, when it comes to treating certain mental illnesses such as PTSD commonly found in old war veterans, shelters and homeless centers lack the adequate care. I realize that this is indeed a big issue, but I focused on homelessness in America, and only the mental illness related populous because it was specific enough to discuss. I think its time to cover other aspects of this problem too. For you personally, how is the homelessness where you live? How do they experience day to day life there?

      Like

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