Mental health affects us all. Even though everyone’s experience with homelessness is different, there is no doubt that housing security and mental health are linked.
People struggling with mental health challenges are more likely to live in poverty, and poverty leads to significant mental health stress. Poverty, of course, affects a person’s housing. For those who fall into homeless, they are walloped with even more mental health pressures.
Homeless youth face many mental health struggles. Of the 1,103 homeless youth who were surveyed for the Without a Home report, 85.4% experienced a mental health crisis. Additionally, the report identified that the young people who face the most severe mental health challenges also face high levels of discrimination. For example:
- LGBTQ2S youth reported a much greater degree of mental health concerns, including suicide attempts
- Female youth experiencing homelessness report markedly poorer mental health and have a higher rate of suicide attempts (59% vs. 39% male)
- Indigenous youth become homeless at a younger age than non-Indigenous youth and are at greater risk for a history of suicide attempts
About half of homeless youth have also had experience in child welfare system. Even though youth with involvement in the child welfare experience Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) at alarming rates, they are often left out of research and discussions about PTSD.
Despite all this, youth mental health services are often designed for youth who are stably housed and have solid natural supports like family. What a terrible gap for youth experiencing homelessness.
SO LET’S TALK…
Homeless youth interact with many systems, so it’s “policy fusion” issue. In other words, if we want to meet their needs, all the sectors that touch the lives of homeless youth must work together.
The Mental Health Care for Homeless Youth, Policy Brief has helpful recommendations about integrating mental health supports into the services homeless youth already access. It calls for prioritizing programs that prevent and quickly end youth homelessness to minimize mental health harms. It also calls for a youth-centric approach that meets diverse youth needs.
We can do it together. Say something: