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Homelessness among the Mentally Ill

McKinney-Vento Act (1987) describes a homeless person as an individual who lacks a regular, fixed residence. Homelessness has been a huge and serious issue in the United States nowadays. Various factors cause an individual to be homeless. It was found that an increase in its population has occurred over the years and was observed that most of these individuals are mentally ill. The understanding and impression of mental disorders has changed over time.

Mental illness can vary and are categorized according to particular diagnosis such as mood disorders, anxiety disorders, psychotic disorders, eating disorders, developmental disorders, personality disorders, and many other categories. Generally, mental disorders have been classified as an important psychological or behavioral pattern that transpires in an individual experiencing disability, distress or increased risk of suffering. Studies shows a lot of imperative factors of an individual’s mental illness, however social influences have also been found to be essential.

Bullying and abuse are some of the negative, stressful life occurrence an individual can experience. In addition to this, facet of a broader society is also concerned in this issue which includes socioeconomic inequality, employment difficulties, lack of social structure and unity, issues involving migration and cultural influences. In this paper, we will look into the issue of homelessness in the United States. Moreover, why homeless Americans have increased over the years and why most of them eventually become mentally ill will be answered.

Most importantly, how mental illness due to homelessness is treated and how these social and economic issues are dealt and addressed in the United States. Discussion An increasing population of homeless people living on the streets of the United States has been an alarming and disturbing fact happening today. This is a harsh reality which should be faced and dealt with—that not everyone has been fortunate to live in a house they can call their own or is living in a place they feel comfortable, safe and at “home”. In fact, as many as 3.

5 million people experience homelessness in a given year and about 842,000 people in any given week Moreover, most of these people are observed to have mental disorder or are said mentally ill so to speak. There are numerous factors which cause both homelessness and mental illness in the United States and commonly, these factors are related and linked with each other. Generally, homelessness is caused when the provider of a household can no longer pay for housing, and this event happens tremendously among the poorest of the country.

Hence, experts have observed a direct relationship between increase in homelessness and increasing levels of poverty. Structural and personal factors must be considered to further understand why some people in poverty experience homelessness and most of these people are mentally ill. Housing and health care opportunities are among the factors that are considered structural. Housing cost drastically increased today which greatly affects lower income households. In addition to this, In 2003 there was a supply deficiency of 1. 7 million units of housing to meet the demand of 7.

7 million extremely low income (ELI) renting households( Center of Housing Policy, 2008). Moreover, as of the moment only one-fourth of all eligible families receive any federal housing assistance due to program funding constraints (Center on Budget and Policy Priorities 2004). In terms of health care opportunities, 45. 8 million Americans (or 15. 7% of the population) were without health insurance, which was an increase from the year before, and was disproportionately represented by poor households in 2004 (U. S. Census Bureau 2004).

Moreover, the United States, more than any industrialized countries, spends 16% of its GDP to provide health insurance to all of their citizens (National Coalition on Health Care 2008). Personal factors also have an impact with regards to keeping and maintaining a household. Untreated mental illness can cause depression, anxiety and paranoia to an individual who makes it difficult for him to keep a job, attend to responsibilities like paying bills and maintain supportive social relationships. Also, substance abuse quite widespread among homeless population.

This can cause employment and housing loss, and can exhaust financial resources. . Individuals with co-occurring mental illnesses and substance use disorders are among the most susceptible to the above mentioned losses. Lastly, some people find themselves homeless due to unexpected situations. This seemingly devastating occurrence can be accounted on natural disasters and unanticipated emergencies. Many people lose their homes because of natural calamities such as floods, forest fires, storms, and earthquakes. Moreover, some people find themselves having difficulty managing or dealing with unexpected tragedies.

Some of which are discovery of terminal illnesses, serious bodily injuries, loss of family members and accidental fire. These circumstances commonly result to serious emotional and psychological suffering. Metal Health experts are using various methodologies to treat mentally ill people. Mental health services may be based in hospitals, clinics or the community. Often an individual may engage in different treatment modalities. Major treatment options used are psychotherapy and psychiatric medications (Lee Anna Clark 2007). There are several approach related to the psychotherapy technique.

Psychoanalysis concerns about underlying psychic defenses and conflicts and has been a widely used approach. The CBT or Cognitive behavioral theory is done on changing patterns of behavior and though related with a particular disorder. Lastly, the Family or systemic therapy, address a group of significant others as well as an individual and is occasionally used. Some psychotherapies are based on a humanistic approach. On the other hand, is psychiatric medication has several main categories. Antidepressants are used for the treatment of clinical depression as well as often for anxiety and other disorders.

Anxiolytics are used for anxiety disorders and related problems such as insomnia. Mood stabilizers are used primarily in bipolar disorder. Though various labels of drug groups exist, there may also be a considerable overlap in the type of disorder they are diagnosed to (Ferney, 2003). Homelessness is said to be related to poverty, then without resolving the issues and aspects causing poverty, the problem of homelessness can never be effectively resolved. The United States’ government has developed campaigns and programs to further address issues that may be socially and economically associated to homelessness.

These programs help low and middle class families get loans to buy their own houses. Moreover, money is given to the local government officials in order to rehabilitate the inner city slum areas. They also provide temporary housing for victims of natural disasters. They give people shelter for as long as they feel is necessary until they are back on their feet with a permanent place to live. Conclusion Homelessness has been a huge dilemma of the United States today. Statistics have shown that over the years, there is an increasing population of homeless in the streets of America and most of them are observed to be mentally ill.

Homelessness, as described by McKinney-Vento Act (1987), is a situation of having no regular, fixed or permanent residence. Having this idea in mind, we can easily classify or distinguish a homeless person. From the discussion, it is said that there is a direct relationship between poverty and homelessness. The increasing poverty rate in people causes them to be homeless. Being homeless gives a feeling of discomfort, insecurity and an experience of suffering to an individual who then in turn results to having a psychological or behavioral pattern which can be considered as a mental disorder or illness.

Significant factors causes mental illness to individuals, however imperative causes or factors are social influences. Mentally ill have increased in the streets of United States for the reason that they may have been neglected and cannot keep a stable social relationship due to their condition, they may be unable to keep or maintain a job to have a means of paying bills and having their own house and if their disturbed condition is not being addressed or well-treated by health professionals or by government units, these people can be seen loitering around the streets, ignored and abandoned.

However, though the homelessness of mentally ills has been an issue nowadays, treatment is being devised to resolve this problem. Different methodologies are being diagnosed by mental health experts to treat these people who are usually based on an interview and case history. Supportive interventions, psychotherapy and psychiatric medication are common options for addressing mental illness. Also, campaigns such as Consumer/Survivor Movement exist to promote changes to mental health services and approach.

Social and economic issues are also associated with this problem. With regards to these aspects, the US government has developed different programs such as The Housing and Urban Development (HUD), The Federal Housing Act, The Urban Renewal Project to better resolve and address homelessness in their nation. Such programs aim to limit or control the growth of the homelessness issue in the United States. These plans are specifically housing programs homeless people and also services which are then provided to those who are nearly homeless.

With this in vision, the problem of the nation of mentally ill who are homeless can be eliminated. Also, giving these people some attention and support may further help them treat their condition naturally.


Center on Budget and Policy Priorities 2004. President’s budget would slash major housing program by 30% by 2009. Retrieved on April 6, 2008 from http://www. cbpp. org/2-12-04hous-pr. htm Center for Housing Policy 2008. Paycheck to Paycheck. Retrieved on April 6, 2008 from http://www.nhc. org/chp/p2p/ Ferney, V. (2003) The Hierarchy of Mental Illness: Which diagnosis is the least debilitating? New York City Voices Jan/March Lee Anna Clark (2007) Assessment and Diagnosis of Personality Disorder: Perennial Issues and an Emerging Reconceptualization Annual Review of Psychology Vol. 58: 227-257 Link BG, Phelan JC, Bresnahan M, Stueve A, Pescosolido BA. (1999) Public conceptions of mental illness: labels, causes, dangerousness, and social distance. Am J Public Health. Sep;89(9):1328

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