May is National Mental Health Awareness Month. Mental illness and homelessness are intertwined and complicated issues. The lack of access to mental health care and other resources can make it difficult for people to keep employment, and ultimately, maintain stable housing. Left untreated, mental illnesses can also prolong an individual’s experience with homelessness.
According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, approximately 1 in 5 people experiencing homelessness in the United States have a serious mental health condition. “Affective disorders such as depression and bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, anxiety disorders, and substance abuse disorders are among the most common types of mental illness in the homeless population,” according to Brain & Behavior.
Mental illness is often a hidden struggle. Many of the guests we serve are battling mental illness with varying degrees of severity. As much as 21% of our guests accessing the overnight emergency shelter self-reported having a mental illness, whether that be a moderate or debilitating case. At Mel Trotter Ministries, we work closely with several local partner providers in the mental health space. If you are someone who struggles with mental illness, you do not have to hide. Please know there is help and hope. You are not alone.
Homelessness can worsen mental health issues. The increased level of stress and trauma that living on the streets causes can lead to the development of various mental illnesses including depression and anxiety. Individuals experiencing homelessness are more likely to experience violence and substance abuse due to their situation, which can also impact their mental health.
All too often, there is a shortage of resources and support to address this issue. To impact the mental health crisis, there needs to be increased access to mental health care, supportive housing, and counseling. Providing much-needed resources to those experiencing homelessness can help prevent the development or worsening of mental illnesses, improve overall quality of life, and give people a pathway to move forward.
Mental illness and homelessness are both incredibly complex issues that require attention and action by the community. Everyone is created in the image of a God who loves them, and Mel Trotter Ministries seeks to demonstrate compassion to every individual, no matter their situation. By working together, raising awareness, and advocating for change, we can help support and care for those in our city who are most vulnerable.