Homeless Youth and Mental Health

Homeless and Addiction

According to The National Center on Family Homelessness there are close to 1.6 million homeless children in America. Homeless youth are individuals under the age of 18 who don’t have any parental, foster, or institutional care. Homeless youth are sometimes referred to as “unaccompanied” youth. The cause of homeless youth falls into three categories which are family problems, economic problems and residential instability. Many homeless youth will finally leave home after years of sexual abuse, physical abuse, strained relationships, addiction or parent neglect. Either reason, most of the time it is because of an unstable family environment that youth will leave home.

In fact more than half of the youth interviewed during a nationwide study said that their parents knew they were leaving and didn’t care or asked them to leave. In other research it was shown that 46% of homeless youth had been physically abused and 17% were forced into unwanted sexual activity by a family or household member. Believe it or not but foster care can also lead to homelessness among youth. A history of foster care is directly related to youth becoming homeless at an earlier age. Because they are so young and homeless, many youth do not have the ability to pay for what they need, including caring for their mental health. In fact homeless youth are so bad off that they will end up exchanging sex for food, clothing and shelter to survive on the streets. This leads to a higher rate of illnesses such as HIV and AIDS. The percentage of homeless youth infected with HIV is around 5%, this could be higher because not every homeless youth gets tested.

Homeless youth also suffer from severe mental health issues for which they can’t get help for. For instance homeless youth often suffer from severe anxiety and depression, poor health and nutrition and low self-esteem. Not just that but they also suffer from post-traumatic stress syndrome. It has been found that homeless youth are three times more likely to suffer from a mental health issue than a youth with a home. This means they are three times more likely to suffer from major depression, conduct disorder, and post-traumatic stress syndrome in comparison to youth who have not run away.

Here are some more facts on the homeless youth and mental health from the National Child Traumatic Stress Network Facts on Trauma and Homeless Children:

  • Homeless youth are sick at twice the rate of other children. They suffer twice as many ear infections, have four times the rate of asthma, and have five times more diarrhea and stomach problems.
  • Homeless youth go hungry twice as often as non-homeless children.
  • More than one-fifth of homeless preschoolers have emotional problems serious enough to require professional care, but less than one-third receive any treatment.
  • Homeless youth are twice as likely to repeat a grade compared to non-homeless children.
  • Homeless youth have twice the rate of learning disabilities and three times the rate of emotional and behavioral problems of non-homeless children.
  • Half of school-age homeless youth experience anxiety, depression, or withdrawal compared to 18 percent of non-homeless children.
  • By the time homeless youth are eight years old, one in three has a major mental disorder.
  • SAMSHA estimates that 38% of homeless people were dependent on alcohol and 26% abused other drugs.

If you or your loved one is in need of treatment for alcohol or drug addiction please give us a call at 800-951-6135.