During Mental Health Awareness Month, attitude towards those with mental illnesses are an incredibly important focus. One of the key demographics that tends to receive little recognition for their conditions and needs are the homeless. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) “26% of homeless adults staying in shelters live with serious mental illness and an estimated 46% live with several severe mental illnesses and/or substance use disorders”.
That is huge! These are people – men and women – in our communities who are struggling and suffering with undiagnosed mental health needs! These include mood disorders, including depression, Bipolar disorder, as well as other more severe conditions such as schizophrenia. Many of these illnesses can and do lead to suicide, which in the United States is the Number 10 cause of death. In fact, in nine out of ten suicides in the US the victim showed symptoms of mental illness.
The question then is: what are these communities doing for these men and women who are in need of mental health? If you look at Los Angeles’ infamous Skid Row, the answer is not much. Nearly 11,000 people living in tent encampments covering 50 city blocks and many of these individuals – several of whom are veterans – have mental illnesses as well as substance use issues.
This situation is been made worse by how LA hospitals were taking care of those with mental illnesses. According to a 2016 article on Vice.com, were putting homeless patients back out in the streets of Skid Row instead of setting up a post-treatment plan to continue rehabilitation. These hospitals may have treated the symptoms, but they aren’t treating the illness which is not an easy or instant fix.
When lawsuits have to be filed because basic human rights are being ignored (at worst) or passably attended (at the least), then these communities are not doing all that they can to fully incorporate these men, women, and just often children into the community at large. While Los Angeles is a highly populated metropolis, the city leaders’ attitude of avoidance is not helping the matter.
Ignorance in this case – and all cases like it – is not bliss. Pretending the problem doesn’t exist doesn’t make it go away, and the longer these mental health concerns go unaddressed, the worse it becomes for those afflicted and for the larger community. And it cannot just be talk; there needs to be action, but one cannot act until their attitude pulls a one-eighty.