Life Unravels

Severe mental illness and addiction unto themselves, left untreated, can create a great deal of havoc in the lives of individuals and families.  Any number of things can happen to make self-care almost impossible to maintain. It can lead people to feel hopeless and lost.

Over a period of time, a life falls apart. There may be a loss of job or inability to attain or maintain an income. This may be followed by loss or displacement from a residence. Some individuals dissociate from their family, and any semblance of the life they were living, and isolate completely.

Dwindling connections to other people and society make the mental illness and addiction dual diagnose and homelessness difficult to treat. Studies show that people with serious mental health problems are at risk for homeless. When there is also an addiction to drugs or alcohol, it magnifies the problems significantly.

Common Problems

Research also shows that people with a mental illness and addiction dual diagnosis and homelessness share certain common traits.

  • Extreme poverty
  • Isolation from family, friends and other support networks
  • Poor health
  • Underutilization of public entitlements like Medicare and welfare
  • Problems with the law
  • Personal vulnerability
  • History of trauma, such as childhood abuse or neglect

The more time a person spends homeless the harder it will be to change. Poor health will get even worse and they are at risk for a premature death. Without support, it is very difficult for an individual to return to a normal life, unless they can somehow find their way into dual diagnosis treatment.

Is There Hope and Help?

Intervention, as early as possible, is crucial.  One of the challenges is that individuals in this population are more likely to seek care for immediate survival needs — such a shelter in winter or a hot meal — rather than assistance for the problems causing their homelessness. They are often unaware or in denial about poor mental health and substance issues.

It is important that they receive dual diagnosis treatment that assesses and treats all of the problems they are dealing with and the history of trauma and loss that brought them there.

Because of their lack of connection to resources, many homeless people do realize there is professional help for dual diagnosis and homelessness and that they may be eligible for local and government-assisted programs.


Becoming and Remaining Homeless; A Qualitative Investigation

Prevalence and Risk Factors for Homelessness and Utilization of Mental Health Services

The epidemiology of alcohol, drug, and mental disorders among homeless persons.

Is Homelessness a Mental Health Problem

Where Do People Go When They Become Homeless?

From Home to Street: Understanding Young People’s Transition to Homelessness

Exploring Ethos? Discourses of ‘Charity’ in the Provision of Emergency Services for Homeless People


Choose a better life. Choose recovery.