Approximately one in four individuals who are homeless also deal with a serious mental illness, compared to one in 25 among the general population. In the 2016 Metro Dallas Homeless Alliance point-in-time homeless count, 46 percent of the homeless in North Texas self-reported living with a mental illness. While struggling with a mental health condition increases the likelihood that a person will become homeless, the connection works both ways: Being homeless or in insecure housing also makes it more difficult for those who live with these challenges to both pursue recovery and acquire stable housing. Below are five ways homelessness magnifies mental health struggles.
Being without a safe and consistent place to live brings an array of stressors that negatively impact mental health. From concerns about where to find the next meal or shelter for the night to fears about witnessing or becoming a victim of violence, stress and worry are constant companions, eroding well-being and often amplifying symptoms of mental illnesses.
Lack of Routine
Routines that many of us take for granted, such as eating three nutritious meals a day, daily bathing, having a warm place to sleep, laundering clothes and interacting with others through regularly scheduled activities, typically fall by the wayside when a person loses stable housing. This lack of consistency takes a serious toll on mental health and makes it incredibly difficult to stick to a treatment plan.
Quality rest each night is a vital component of mental health for everyone, and it’s especially important for those living with mental illnesses. But the noise and dangers of the street or the unfamiliarity of a shelter bed can make a solid night’s sleep only a dream. Lack of proper rest can make it even more difficult to deal with the massive stress of homelessness or unstable housing, and in turn hinders individuals’ ability to prevent that stress from compounding their mental health struggles.
In many cases, those who are housing insecure lack connections with friends and family, and many become homeless due to a breakdown in relationships. A support network of caring people is often a major factor in the pursuit of mental health stability, but for those without stable homes, such a network is a rarity. And, because those who are homeless often aren’t welcome in public places, many spend most of their hours alone. This isolation adds another layer of challenge.
A Short-Term View
Those without stable housing are often forced to take life one day or even one hour at a time as the concerns of the present are too great to allow the mental space to consider long-term plans. Without the ability to consider the future, those dealing with both mental illnesses and homelessness struggle to take steps that could help them better manage their conditions.
Many members of The Well Community face the intertwined challenges of mental illness and unstable housing on a daily basis. But, at The Well they find a supportive network of people who come alongside them in their struggles, as well as benefit from nutritious meals and meaningful activities. Your gift will help The Well continue to address some of the issues that lead to housing insecurity among those living with mental health challenges and help these individuals pursue mental health stability.
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