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The Connections Between Mental Illness and Homelessness in Canada

Contrary to popular belief, mental illness on its own is not a cause of homelessness. It is important to acknowledge that, thinking of mental illness as a reason for homelessness directs more attention towards the individual themself rather than the flawed institutions that contribute to inadequate housing security.

Sources do suggest, however, that mental illness is indeed connected to homelessness, since the stress and social factors are likely to intensify a person’s existing disorder or condition. According to the Mental Health Commission of Canada, “between 25-50% of the homeless population have a mental illness.” In 2005, the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation stated that about 27% or 140,000 people that have a mental illness and do not live in adequate housing are at much higher risk of homelessness due to barriers that prevent fulfilling employment and educational opportunities as well as fewer support channels. The homeless have been known to suffer from depression, substance abuse, schizophrenia, and anxiety, among other mental illnesses.

Something to be noted is that homelessness can cause trauma and emotional distress, which can worsen one’s mental state, especially if they are not able to access suitable treatment options. In addition, restlessness, and the increased use of drugs can have a substantial effect on those who are homeless. While mental illness does have differing impacts on homeless people, those who do not suffer from a psychological disorder face similar issues. These include threats to one’s physical safety, lack of education, inadequate housing, and poor healthcare. Most of the time, homeless individuals with mental illness endure their situations for longer periods and interact less with their friends and family.

The main reason why those experiencing homelessness and mental illness are unable to recover from their situation is because there is a lack of community services to aid them. Another issue is that mental health workers cannot sufficiently tend to patients who are homeless and have mental health struggles, due to a lack of resources. With this in mind, a greater emphasis should be placed on improving the capability of medical personnel in providing adequate care to the homeless. Overall, better funding is necessary in order to expand support networks and programs that help homeless individuals with mental illnesses out of their predicaments.


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