Homelessness And Mental Illness
Typical Homeless Images
How Many Homeless Are Mentally Ill?
It is estimated that 20 to 25% of the homeless population in the United States suffers from some form of mild, intermediate to severe mental illness. When considering a HEARTH (2009) estimate of 3.5 Million homeless across the country this would equate to about 700,000 and 875,000 Mentally Ill homeless respectively. As a comparison about 6% of Americans, 23,400,000 are mentally Ill to some degree. (National Institute of Mental Health, 2009).
Additionally,homeless families having mental illness problems was mentioned by 12% of cities as one of the top three causes of homelessness among families In a 2008 survey by the U.S. Conference of Mayors. Some larger cities were asked what the three largest causes of homelessness in their communities arose from, Mental illness was the third largest cause of homelessness for single adults.
The subject of mental disorder brings discomfort by its very nature. Discussing the homeless mentally ill brings with it a complexity most of us cannot understand. It is very complicated as there are many forms of mental illness among the homeless. Many people feel we should just lock them into a mental hospital or throw them into jail or state prisons. Clearly, as the comics show above, many of the homeless mentally ill released through the program of deinstitutionalization (discussed below), found themselves reinstitutionalized within our county jails and prisons.
Most of these mentally ill find their way into our prisons for relatively minor acts: health and safety code violations, substance abuse, possession, or acting out their symptoms. Bazaar actions or weird crimes committed by the mentally ill were once treated by a 72 hour assessment that could lead to institutional placement in a mental facility against the will of the person, or they could be released.
Common practice now is to jail them, place them into a private care facility if they have medicaid/medicare, release them to a homeless shelter, nursing home or the streets. Unfortunately, some mentally ill homeless wind up dead in a dumpster, or living in a dumpster.
The truth is that too many homeless mentally ill suffer greatly on a daily basis. Some need hospitalization and direct supervision, others simply need stability and proper medication, Their bazaar acts, side-effects and other symptoms are easily witnessed, with many people being disgusted, hateful, biased and prejudiced by the sights they see daily. It is a hot subject and most of our problem with it is our ignorance of what it is, and how or who should be treated or hospitalized.
CAUSE OF MENTALLY ILL HOMELESSNESS
During the mid-nineteen fifties the psychotropic/anti-psychotic drug Thorazine (chlorpromazine) was introduced and touted as a method to control severe mental illness. Within ten years (1965-1066) the development of many other drugs believed to manage mental illness sufficient to allow the mentally ill to be managed n our communities were developed, accepted widely and administered. This brought about changes in federal law concerning medicare and medicaid. As a result many mentally ill were released to community based group homes or family members. It was the advent of deinstitutionalization, and there was much more to come.
During the late 1960s the State of California experienced overcrowding and under staffing of too many mental health hospitals. In those times many mentally Ill were kept against their will for very long periods of time. This became a huge financial burden to most states: many outrageous incidents and criminal acts by mental health professionals were being profiled in the state and national press. The problems were systemic in nature because of incompetence, inadiquate staffing, overcrowding and poorly trained staff.
Then California Governor Ronald Reagan proposed many changes in law putting forth the idea that most Mentally Ill inmates in these facilities would be best managed outside the hospital and in group homes. This became known as deinstitutionalization. Progressive thousands were released saving billions of dollars in the process. Mental facilities and hospitals were shut down, and new regulations dictated that only the criminally insane or those posing a threat to their own safety or the safety of others should be hospitalized. Other states followed suit and eventually released hundreds of thousands across our nation.
Mental Illness of all types are prevalent among our nations homeless population. (See Below) The shear numbers of severely mentally ill released were staggering. The total numbers are at or have over-passed the 1 Million person mark. I feel the current estimates are low-ball. As expressed above, these numbers are laid-out and statistics are linked for you to study how large the problem is with mental health throughout the population as a whole, and within the homeless population itself. I have personally seen, talked with, been friends to and lived with many mentally ill homeless. I will profile the ones I personally know as time goes on and I fully develop this Hubpage. For now, read on and discover how grave this problem is, how shameful it is for America, and how dangerous it can be for the mentally Ill person and the public as a whole.
MENTALLY ILL AT A SERIOUS DISADVANTAGE
The mentally ill homeless suffer more of a disadvantage than other homeless people, except for the elderly homeless. Mentally ill persons are more likely to experience violence such as robbery, police brutality, being ignored by the police when trying to report crimes against themselves: and they are less likely to have anyone who cares to assist them.
Serious mental illness precludes ability to carry out the essential aspects of life. This means they usually will not be able to manage finances, manage a household or take care of their individual physical/mental health. they cannot usually form normal relationships with others, act irrationally and misinterpret the intentions of others, to include emergency personal, family and friends, or service organizations. Additionally, they cannot usually understand how to work through a maze of bureaucratic paperwork and appointments. For these reasons, they usually fail to get the help needed to keep themselves in a stable housing situation, or feed themselves daily.
As a result of these problems, the mentally ill are much more prone to becoming homeless and helpless. Studies performed by the California Mental Health System found that 15% were homeless at least once per year, even after getting supportive housing assistance. A person with schizophrenia or bipolar disorder are far more at risk than others.
Poor mental health can directly affect physical health for people that are homeless. Mentally Ill homeless are much less likely to seek medical help when needed. Commonly homeless people are robbed of their personal property, to include medication. The medication of elderly or mentally ill homeless people is a natural target for predatory homeless drug addict. Property crime is very high between homeless persons. The homeless mentally ill, as any homeless person is, are susceptible to skin diseases, HIV/STD's, hepatitis and substance abuse/addiction. African Americans are over represented in this group and suffer more illness and death as a result of self abuse. Some mentally ill find themselves involved in street drugs in an attempt to self medicate using injectable drugs. The combination of poor physical health substance abuse and illness make it impossible to work or maintain a stable living condition.
Disadvantage is also found in the fact that police officers and the public in general look upon the Mentally Ill with fear, misunderstanding, disdain or with a lack of compassion. It is very important to improve mental health outreach services. Community based programs, mental health intervention services in the private and government sectors have proliferated over many years and have been successful for those mentally ill whom actually go for help. The problem is: if they are left to themselves to find services, they will seldom get the help needed. Most find help through mental health hospitals or court probation, jail release or referral from a mental health counselor within a community service center program. More needs to be done in the field by actively seeking out the mentally Ill homeless and transporting them to service organization assistance offices. There are many federal programs to assist, as well as local government program(s) that directly assist with education, housing assistance an subsidies, substance abuse treatment and education and more. These programs are in the Long Beach area, but such organizations and programs are available throughout the country. Most of these websites have a locator function for people in other cities or states.
Unfortunately, mentally ill homeless are often victims of police brutality, public brutility, sexual abuse and personal property crimes. They are easy prey for other homeless people and the crimes committed against them are often dismissed by police or not reported by the mentally ill victims themselves. Incarcerated/Imprisoned mentally ill prisoners are victimized by their jailers. Police across the country have been charged with killing or beating homeless mentally ill and mentally ill veterans. The problem is being addressed through the training and education of law enforcement officers about homelessness and mental illness.
Contrary to common belief, the mentally ill homeless with severe mental illness are willing to accept housing and treatment services. Many are being served by the organizations I've pointed out above. Rescue Missions also provide shelter, food and assistance in getting into housing programs by having mental health care professionals meet with those in need at the mission itself. The Long Beach Police Department has an outreach program for the mentally ill and at risk homeless that initially puts them in a motel, and then seeks placement in group transitional living housing. I am sure that other city and police programs are in available to help the homeless in other counties, cities and states.
It is very important that the homeless mentally ill have access to continued treatment, access to their medication, and are taking it properly. Without this it they are unlikely to achieve permanent residential stability and remain off the streets. Supportive housing is important for people with mental illness. (NMHA 2006) Supportive housing programs provide mental health care, physical health care, community outreach, street engagement workers, and a variety of treatment options. These programs need support both financially and through volunteer workers of all types. Funding is a significant barrier for cities, counties and private 501(c)(3) corporation which can be financed with help from the public. More federal and state funding must be made available to address this problem.It is a problem created by government action in the first place.