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Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Street News: Mental - Homelessness Correlationship

Which Comes First Mental Health Struggles or Homelessness?

Anne Marie Batten, formerly of Downeyville, credits her rural upbringing with influencing her  career as a street nurse in Toronto. In today's installment of Street News Anne Marie Batten shares her insights on the relationship between mental health struggles and homelessness. 

 Mental Health and Homelessness 

By Anne Marie Batten 
I was asked recently why so many of our homeless community are struggling with mental illness. Although there is a common perception that the mental illness leads to the homelessness, there is another side to this answer that needs to be discussed.

Homelessness : Grief - Contributing Factor  

 We are all aware of the increasing number of folks struggling with untreated mental illnesses who have fallen through cracks in our system. We see this everyday. The folks we may not see are the less visible. Far too often, we may not assess the person who lost his job and is now living in a shelter because he cannot afford to pay rent. Many of the folks in our homeless community are there because of negative circumstances, loss of relationships, loss of family members, loss of home, income etc. When someone experiences loss and a significant change of circumstances feelings of sadness, fear and anxiety are common reactions. In many cases this person can become very overwhelmed, feel depressed and have thoughts of suicide. This is referred to as an adjustment disorder or a situational crisis. There can be a significant risk involved for this person's safety.

Homelessness: How Physical Conditions Affect Mental Health


When someone is sleeping in a shelter or outside, their sleeping patterns become interrupted. Lack of sleep and poor nutrition can also lead to irritability and difficulty coping. In severe cases, sleep deprivation can even lead to a form of psychosis. Fortunately, this will improve quickly with a hospital admission and adequate rest.

Homelessness: Outreach Important Questions

 As homelessness service providers, it is very important to look beyond the physical presentation and general health concerns. We cannot do a complete assessment without addressing their mental health and coping. For someone in a situational crisis, this may be a new experience and they will not offer the information to us. We need to ask the questions! I would encourage all outreach providers to include a comprehensive mental health assessment with your intake and assessment. We have funding and resources to address the physical health needs, but it is very important that we expand our current practice. There is no easy answer for what came first, the homelessness or the mental health struggles.

About Anne-Marie Batten:Anne Marie Batten,grew up in Downeyville-around here we know her as 'Joe O'Neil's daughter'. Have questions for Anne Marie?  Read about Anne Marie's work, or Connect with Anne Marie Batten on Twitter @AnneMarieBatten, LinkedIn  her blog Anne Marie Batten, or leave a comment below.We are pleased to feature Anne Marie's column Street News in Omemee Pigeon eFlyer.

About Anne-Marie Batten:Anne Marie Batten,grew up in Downeyville-around here we know her as 'Joe O'Neil's daughter'. Have questions for Anne Marie?  Read about Anne Marie's work, or Connect with Anne Marie Batten on Twitter @AnneMarieBatten, LinkedIn  her blog Anne Marie Batten, or leave a comment below.We are pleased to feature Anne Marie's column Street News in Omemee Pigeon eFlyer.

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