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Homelessness amongst adolescents and youthful adults has been concentrated in numerous studies and researches has been conducted in preparing literature reviews on the topic which function purposefully in depicting the incidents of lack of shelter among the youth. The following literature review will endeavor to serve the same purpose in addition to describing the previous methods used to list homeless persons in major cities areas.
Factors of becoming homeless
Several factors play a substantial part in compelling the youth to take drastic steps of leaving their homes and choosing to be homeless. The first is the failure of the healthcare system. In 1995, 39 million Americans had no health insurance (Baltimore, MD, 1996). The next factor is the occurrence of household violence in society as a majority of beaten-up women are compelled to choose between their violent relationship and being without homes, more often than not, with their children.
The third and the core of this research is mental illness. Formerly, the augmentation in homeless youth was charged on the enormous discharge of mentally ill youngsters from establishments coupled with the introduction of potent antipsychotic remedies. The reality is that the majority of the adolescents are incapable of gaining access to the accommodation or healing services which they urgently necessitate (Delmar, NY 1992).
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), “Health is a state of complete mental, physical and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity”.
As such, bad health is intimately related to being homeless. The relationship works in either way as bad health not only causes homelessness but can also be caused by being homeless. According to a study, thirteen percent of the homeless patients who were investigated affirmed that their bad health served as a crucial factor in becoming homeless and Fifteen percent of them confirmed that health served as a distinctly significant factor in homelessness befalling them. ( Wright JD, Weber E., 1987).
The healthiness report of homeless youth is distinctive and complex since youngsters are at a significant phase of not only physical and social but more importantly mental development. Homelessness among youth can give rise to or maybe a result of complications arising from the precarious nature of adolescent development. According to several studies and researches conducted on the topic, there is evidence of a variety of individual, familial, communal, and institutional reasons which may be the cause of their homelessness.
When they encounter homeless, street life establishes these youth to a street system and culture that incorporates the use and sale of drugs and alcohol, association with gangs and at the same time, mental illness and negative developments thereby causing additional complications in their lives. Several studies have indicated the presence of a wide range of physical and psycho-social complications among these youth to the contributors who take care of them.
The Children’s Health Fund (CHF) is an organization that aims to study the existing health care facilities for homeless youth, by distinguishing the most imperative health needs of the homeless youth and consequently proposing the deliverance of the best mental health care and other practices required to treat this exclusive populace. Quantitative methods have revealed the estimates of the homeless youth which have been identified as a populace that cannot be easily quantifiable. As per estimates, the number of homeless youngsters in the United States varies extensively. The survey of 27 big metropolises of the entire nation approximates that homeless youth account for 5% of all homeless persons. (U.S. Conference of Mayors, Survey 2004, 62), estimating approximately 115,000 to 175,000 homeless youth in the country. (The Urban Institute, 2001).
Studies and research conducted by ‘The United States Department of Health and Human Services’ too approximate the figure of about 0.5 to 1.5 million youth, who are on the streets through the period of any single year within the USA. (Robertson, M.J., and Toro P.A.).
The scientific investigation of the origin of the problem of homelessness among youth reveals versatile factors fundamentally relating to the youth and the concerned family identifying any problems in the relationship and the mental illness along with societal factors including foster care. Adverse situations in the family, as well as foster care, may serve as a crucial factor for a teen to take to the streets, and especially the adolescents experiencing mental health problems are more liable to experience homelessness.
Several homeless adolescents have numerous fitness and health, drug abuse, emotional and mental illness problems which may have been present before encountering homelessness thereby being consequently aggravated by the homeless situation or they may have developed in reaction to homeless life (Milburn, N., et al.). These health risking activities such as drug abuse and survival sex expose homeless teenagers to a considerably larger threat for severe medicinal and mental health problems, such as A.I.D.S, hepatitis, pregnancy, trauma, and depression. (Ringwalt, C., Greene, J., Robertson, M., and McPheeters, M., 1998).
According to research conducted by Robertson, M.J., and Toro P.A., homeless youth are at a higher risk for emotional distress and depression. Approximately, the occurrence of disorder in the mental health of homeless youth varies extensively from 19 percent to 50 percent. Characteristically, these statistics are obtained using quantitative methods such as screening for symptoms, for example by the DISC the criteria of DSM, according to which the rates of depression vary from 19 percent to 26 percent (Ibid).
The ‘Children’s Health Fund’ obtains the data using qualitative methods such as clinical interrogation or interviews relating chiefly to the deliverance of medical care by merely making a diagnosis of and calculating the chronic and continual mental illness patients thereby excluding the data of adjustment reactions, disorders in the personality of the target study, patients with acute and reactive depression, all of which are some forms of mental illnesses.
An enormous thirty-five percent of adolescents were detected with major mental illness in a survey of the Streetworks population which is served by the CHF. Among those who were detected with major mental illness, sixty-three percent were surveyed to have depression which corresponds with twenty-two percent occurrences of chronic depression in the populace of homeless youth. Further, twenty-three percent of the youth with major mental illness were identified with a bi-polar disorder which corresponds to eight percent of the homeless youth population, and fourteen percent were reported as being psychotic thereby accounting for five percent of the youth who are homeless.
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Shockingly more than half of fifty-three percent of youth without homes and shelter were reported with mental illness suicidal attempts on a minimum of one occasion thereby foregrounding the commonness of suicide endeavors in the homeless youth population. Nevertheless, among these dangerously mentally ill youngsters, sadly only eighteen percent had been psychiatrically hospitalized once (Kessler RC, Berglund, P., Demler, O., Jin, R., Merikangas, KR, Walters, EE, 2005).
Alcoholism and drug abuse
The practices of alcoholism and drug abuse are common among the unsheltered youth on the streets and research confirms more that than a quarter of homeless youth display several indications of addiction to drugs. (Baily, S, Camlin, C, and Ennet, S.,1998). Substance abuse is known to be used as a personal prescription in many cases of mental illness as the abuse of alcohol and drugs destroys the upshot of starvation thereby deadening the sharp suffering and serves in a way to reduce the disgust of the reality of street life. The misuse of drugs and alcohol may also be responsible for inducing unwarranted sexual behavior like that proves to be very dangerous.
Practicing unguarded sex with a stranger, with higher risk partners, with many partners, or with partners whose knowledge of history or lifestyle is not known or alternately offering sex in trade for money, drugs, and food or shelter are representative of activities related to the abuse of drugs like marijuana among desolate homeless adolescents. (Baily, S, Camlin, C, and Ennet, S. 1998), (Ibid, 382).
The deficiency of reachable services in health care, insufficient accommodation, and high-risk deeds all congregate to intimidate not only the physical but the mental welfare of the homeless youth, who certainly are amongst the most deprived and fringed faction of society and as such necessitate specifically customized efforts and resources to comply to their exclusive requirements which are of crucial importance in taking care of the sensitive homeless youth and help them to come out of the grave and horrific situation of homelessness.
Baltimore, MD: Employee benefit and Research Institute Publications; 1996.
Employee Benefit and Research Institute. Analysis of the 1995 Consumer Population Survey: Sources of Health Insurance and Characteristics of the Uninsured.
Delmar, NY: National Resource Center on Homelessness and Mental Illness; 1992.
Federal Task Force on Homelessness and Severe Mental Illness. ‘Outcasts on Main Street’: A report of the federal Task Force on Homelessness and Severe Mental Illness.
Milburn, N., et al., ‘The Urban Institute Helping America’s Homeless’, 2001.
Ringwalt, C., Greene, J., Robertson, M., and McPheeters, M. ‘The Prevalence of Homelessness Among Adolescents in the United States’. American Journal of Public Health 1998, 88:9, p. 1325-1329.
U.S. Conference of Mayors, Hunger and Homelessness Survey 2004, 62. This survey did not include data from New York City.
Wright JD, Weber E., ‘Homelessness and Health’. Washington, DC: McGraw Hill; 1987.