Availability and Accessibility of Mental Health Care for Homeless Youth

Homelessness remains a problem for many people living in the United States. A large number of people who are homeless are young people and children. The reasons for this are many, but often, children and young people who have experienced maltreatment or abuse at home choose to leave. When they are unable to find a safe and secure place, they become homeless. And although they may have left their homes to escape victimization, being homeless makes them more vulnerable to future victimization.

Another issue facing homeless individuals is mental health. It is evident that mental health problems are high among the homeless population. But it is unclear whether these rates are equally high among homeless youth. Additionally, it is not well known whether mental health problems generally precede homelessness or are exacerbated by homelessness in the younger population of homeless individuals.

Kate J. Hodgson of the School of Psychology at Cardiff University in the UK wanted to determine whether the relationship between mental health problems and homelessness was a reciprocal one in homeless youth. To do so, she examined 46 previous studies and found that mental health challenges were present in the majority of homeless individuals studied. Among the most common psychological issues in homeless youth were ADHD, mania, depression, conduct disorder, PTSD, and suicidal ideation. Hodgson also found high levels of comorbidity, especially with substance misuse and psychological conditions.

When she looked further, Hodgson discovered that psychological issues were both catalysts for and consequences of homelessness. Young people who live on the streets are more likely to be the victims of sexual and physical assaults and are exposed to high rates of violence. This puts them at increased risk for mental health problems. Additionally, many of these young people are themselves abuse survivors and may begin their life on the streets with PTSD, depression, or other issues as a result of the abuse they experienced.

Either way, homelessness clearly has a negative impact on overall mental health for young people. But because these individuals live transient lives and rarely take advantage of support or community outreach services for mental health issues, they often go untreated. Hodgson hopes that her study will underscore the need for tailored treatment designed to address the unique demands of this segment of the population. She added, “Intervention efforts need to be accessible to this underserved population and work around the chaotic nature of their lives and their mental health needs.”

Reference:
Hodgson, Kate J., B.Sc, et al. (2013). Psychopathology in young people experiencing homelessness: A systematic review. American Journal of Public Health 103.6 (2013): E24-37. ProQuest. Web.

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  • kyle

    kyle

    July 4th, 2013 at 10:25 PM

    both physical and mental health can take a beating without secure confines of a home.and homelessness also means lack of money and thus lack of treatment.this creates a strong cycle that is not only bad for their health but for their morale as well.

  • Laken

    Laken

    July 5th, 2013 at 5:44 AM

    Homeless youth? I suppose that somewhere in my mind I knew that this could be a problem but reading this article and seeing in black and white the difficulties that these children are facing, oh it just makes me want to get out and do something. But what can one person do? This is such a cycle that goes farther back than this child and will continue on in a way that without serious intervention may never be resolved. This is another of those instances that should never have to happen but blatantly it does, but then you wonder what can we do to fix it? I realize tat having the chance for them to get mental health services is a great start but it isn’t the only thing that will resolve this issue and I am not sure that there is anything that ever fully can.

  • Gretel

    Gretel

    July 5th, 2013 at 7:02 AM

    Where are the parents?
    Who would let their child just leave home and then struggle on the streets?

  • amelia T

    amelia T

    July 6th, 2013 at 6:04 AM

    Sometimes I feel like the very issues of mental health and homelessness, as well as other public interest and social issues like these, fall very low on the totem pole when it coems to how much the public genuinely cares about them.

    Most of the time people don’t become too interested in issues like these until they hit close to home for them. What a shame. If more of us cared about this before it ever struck home, then that could lead to a ton of prevention that is not now being employed.

  • lydia dishner

    lydia dishner

    July 8th, 2013 at 10:33 AM

    You have to remember that just because something is available and even accessible doesn’t necessarily mean that people are going to use it.

    What if they don’t know about the servives which are available or they don’t even realize that they need it? Maybe there is a bigger ssue with getting the word out that this is availbale and ready to be utilized than we would have thought.

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