The Increase of the Homeless Mentally Ill in the United States

One of the signs that a country’s economic status is depreciating is the increase in the number of individuals living on the streets or shelters society has come to call as the homeless since they do not have a roof over their heads that they could really call their own. However, it has been noted that most, if not all, of the homeless in the United States have suffered at least encountered some event of mental illness. This paper would provide information on how much of the population in the United States today are considered to be homeless as well as how much of the homeless are mentally ill.

It will also include information as to why there has been an increase in the number of homeless mentally ill in the United States and what should be done in order to resolve this growing social problem. The Homeless Mentally Ill in the United States Homelessness as a social problem is not one that has plagued the country in recent times. In fact, this problem had its roots in colonial North America. Because of the rapid changes in the country’s economy, fluctuations in migration, illness and disease, inflation was experienced by society.

This led to families being evicted from their residences, losing employment and forced to live among the streets (Gelberg & Arangua 2001; Snow & Anderson 1993). These socio-economic trends have continued over the centuries. Sociologists have attributed the reduction of welfare benefits as a result of the rise in inflation, massive inflation rates, rapid urban development, decline of the availability of low-income housing and the rise of unemployment rate to the increase of the number of homeless individuals in the United States (Gelberg & Arangua 2001; Snow & Anderson 1993).

Based on the reports and studies that have been made on the homeless population in the United States, it has been discovered that majority of the homeless population are inflicted with mental disorders. Approximately 60% of the homeless population has been estimated to have serious mental illness. One-third of the homeless adults suffer from serious mental illness such as schizophrenia, affective disorder, personality disorder and cognitive disorders. This is equivalent to 30% of the total population in the United States today (Aday 2001; Ettner 2001; Gelberg & Arangua 2001).

Reasons for the Increase of Homeless Mentally Ill Studies have shown that there is a direct relationship between poverty and the increase in the number of mentally ill homeless individuals in the United States. Experts have attributed mental illness as a result of not just biological determinants but environmental determinants as well. One such environmental determinant is poverty. Because of the changes in employment and job requirements, this would result into the individual having an increase in absenteeism.

This would, in turn, result to a loss in employment (Aday 2001; Ettner 2001; Gelberg & Arangua 2001). Another reason for the increase in homeless mentally ill Americans is due to the effects of minority status and socio-economic disadvantage of various ethnic groups. This is supported by the number of Americans from ethnic minority groups who are diagnosed with a mental disorder where 12. 9% are Native Americans, 10. 3% are Hispanics and 9. 7% are African-Americans.

Because they are considered as part of the minority, they see themselves as “victims” because they are unable to gain access to attain the required educational attainment in order to find a stable form of employment. This situation faced by ethnic minorities lead to them to poverty and in turn would instill the stress on both the individual and their families which then causes them to experience mental illness (Aday 2001). Another reason for the increase in the number of homeless mentally ill individuals in the United States is the onset of deinstitutionalization.

Deinstitutionalization of the mentally ill has largely contributed in the increase in the number of the homeless mentally ill individuals in the United States. This is because of the failure in the implementing of this policy to develop a system of housing and other supportive services before releasing vulnerable mentally ill and other disabled individuals into the community. Up until the early twentieth century, individuals who are considered to be seriously mentally ill were institutionalized in state and county mental hospitals.

After World War II, a greater awareness of the poor conditions in these institutions and a theoretical reorientation toward the role of the environment in influencing mental health resulted to the emergence of a community mental health movement concentrating on the deinstitutionalization of mental patients. This new community-based care perspective initially received considerable support from the Kennedy administration, culminating in the Community Mental Health Care Act of 1963 where the states were encouraged to devote matching funds to community-based centers providing an array of mental health services.

However, the number and growth of these centers and related community resources for caring for the mentally ill declined due to the lack of sustained political support, funding at the national and state levels. Other factors that provided a momentum for the deinstitutionalization of mental health care facilities included the wider availability of psychotropic drugs that could be used to control or modify patient behavior on an outpatient basis as well as the belief that community care would be a less expensive alternative to treatment which many states have deemed to expensive to assure (Aday 2001; Bogard 2003).

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