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Housing Insecurity and Its Connection to Mental Health and Substance Use Disorders

Housing insecurity, a critical issue affecting millions globally, is intricately linked with mental health and substance abuse. This connection has far-reaching implications, impacting individuals, families, and communities. Understanding the interplay between these factors is vital for developing effective interventions and support systems.

Defining Housing Insecurity

Housing insecurity encompasses various situations like living without housing, inadequate housing, or the threat of losing one’s home. This instability often leads to chronic stress and anxiety.

The Mental Health Connection

While not all people experiencing homelessness have a mental illness, studies consistently demonstrate that mental illness is a significant risk factor for being without a safe and stable place to live. According to the National Institutes of Health, more than 20% of individuals who are experiencing homelessness have a serious mental illness, compared with five percent of the general U.S. population.

Mental illness is a comprehensive term that refers to various conditions that affect an individual’s emotions, thought processes, and behaviors. Common mental health disorders include depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, and schizophrenia. These conditions can severely hinder a person’s daily functioning, especially when not addressed. In the context of homelessness, the challenges posed by mental illness are often more acute.

The interplay between mental illness and homelessness is intricate and multi-layered. Being unhoused can intensify the symptoms of mental illness, and conversely, mental health issues can be a precipitating factor in losing housing. 

For instance, an individual with unmanaged schizophrenia might find themselves without a home due to struggles with employment and housing affordability. On the other hand, the stressors and hardships associated with experiencing homelessness can lead to the development or worsening of mental health issues like depression and anxiety. This cyclical relationship highlights the need for holistic approaches to address mental health and housing stability.

The Complex Relationship Between Homelessness and Substance Use Disorders

Although not every person experiencing homelessness is dealing with substance use, estimates put the percentage of homeless people with substance use at higher rates than the general population. Some studies suggest that 38% of homeless people have alcohol use disorder and 26% abuse drugs. However, exact data is challenging to capture, as much of the research is dated and relies primarily on reports from those who are unhoused. 

In addition, substance use is both a cause and a consequence of homelessness. Substance abuse can lead to homelessness due to job loss, financial difficulties, and the breakdown of family support systems. Conversely, the harsh realities of experiencing homelessness can exacerbate addiction, with individuals turning to drugs or alcohol as a coping mechanism.

Count on RADIAS Health

RADIAS Health provides person-centered integrated healthcare services to people experiencing mental illness, substance use, or co-occurring disorders. Compassionate, skilled health care and support staff deliver our behavioral health services. In addition, our care includes supplementary services such as case management, supportive housing, services to those who are unhoused, residential services, outpatient DBT treatment, and more.

If you or someone you know could benefit from our mission, contact us today or consider donating!

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