Quora Query: Why Do Homeless People Become More Mentally Ill?

I think [previous answers] have it pretty much [covered]. People often become homeless because of mental illness. But homelessness is a bit more complex.

Homelessness can be acute or chronic. Acute is usually made up of women and children who are NOT ill, rather have lost job, partner, or suffered an illness that broke them financially – another reason that health care reform is so important.

The chronically homeless are more often mentally ill, and the literature I have reviewed – admittedly this is not exactly my area, but we did some work on this in the past while I was at the University of Florida – suggests this is true.

In the past, there were social structures in place to care for these individuals. This was destroyed by the purposeful degradation of the social safety net, begun under the tenure of Mr. Reagan while he was President.

So, the long and short of it is this:

1. Acute homelessness – financial, job or medical illness related most often.

2. Chronic homelessness – often related to pre-existing mental illness.

3. None of this has to be. It is simply the way we have chosen to organize our society. It is the way we have decided to define our relationships with our fellow citizens. We did this, and we can make it better.

If we choose to.

I hope this helps a bit.

I would be happy to share a white paper we wrote on homelessness a few years ago; we didn’t publish it, but it may help with some of the underlying questions here.

[Note added – another reason to support Senator Sanders and his transformational policies….and I use the term “transformational” in the sense that the Sanders’ policies are a continuation of those of FD Roosevelt]

 

About AJ Layon

AJ Layon was, for 28 years, at the University of Florida College of Medicine, in the Division of Critical Care Medicine, in Gainesville, FL. For the approximately 10 years until September 2011, he was Professor and Chief of Critical Care Medicine at UF; In September of 2011 he became System Director and Co-Chairman of Critical Care Medicine in PA; this ended in 2017. He serves as a Physician in the Surgical Group with Médecins sans Frontières (MSF, Doctors without Borders). While his interests are primarily related to health care, health care reform, and ethical issues, as a citizen of our United States and our world, he will occasionally opine on issues of our "time and destiny". Follow on Twitter @ajlayon
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