Since the beginning of the digital age, mental healthcare has changed from something often forgotten and disregarded to something more necessary than ever before. The COVID-19 pandemic has only amplified that.
People who face homelessness experience the highest rate of mental health issues. While some people may have had mental health issues before becoming homeless, some also develop mental health issues after becoming homeless. Yet, mental health services are least accessible to people that are homeless.
According to Psychiatric Times, “The total number of people who experience some form of homelessness over the course of a year is estimated to be 2.5 to 3.5 million individuals.”
Common mental health issues include anxiety, depression, ADHD, PTSD, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, alcoholism and substance addiction. Whether these issues were present before or after homelessness, symptoms of these disorders only get worse when fundamental needs are an everyday question.
According to Psychiatric Times, “In a large sample of homeless adults with serious mental illness, almost 8% reported a suicide attempt within the previous 30 days.”
Where do people that are homeless go when they are suffering from mental health issues? The biggest barrier to entry is cost. People that are homeless rarely have health insurance.
According to the National Alliance to End Homelessness, “Most communities have Federally Qualified Health Centers and more specifically, Health Care for the Homeless Clinics, which provide some basic health services without substantial cost. The advent of the Affordable Care Act has also opened up options by allowing states to expand their Medicaid programs to cover people with very low incomes.”
However, clinics may not always have the ability to give each patient the proper care they need. Not only that, but their existence does not ensure they will be utilized. People who are experiencing homelessness are not likely to prioritize their mental health when their basic needs are not being met. Mental health issues themselves can also prevent people from seeking help, especially when you consider that people who are homeless often have a limited support system.
The first step in improving the mental health of people who are homeless is not necessarily providing mental healthcare services, but ensuring basic needs are met. People who are homeless are far more likely to get help and improve their mental health if they first have a place to live and a way to support themselves.