Dasen Brajkovic, noted psychiatrist, volunteers at a homeless shelter in his home state of New Jersey. According to the National Coalition for the Homeless, twenty to twenty-five percent of homeless individuals suffer from a severe mental illness. That is much higher than the estimated six percent of the general population.
When a person suffers from a mental illness, he or she will have difficulty maintaining healthy relationships both at work and at home. It can be hard to keep a job. Having friends and developing appropriate intimate relationships suffers. In addition, the person may not take proper physical care of them self. As a result, the person has a high probability of living in poverty, ending up on the street or in jail, and/or self-medicating with alcohol or drugs. This combines to create a situation that seems hopeless.
Homeless shelters work with other community services to help homeless men, women and children to get help. Support groups and low cost or free medical care can allow someone to receive treatment. It takes time for a street person with an untreated mental illness to trust caregivers. Sometimes a person has rejected past medications because of the severe side effects. Hopefully, that person can be convinced to try again.
Dasen Brajkovic encourages those he helps as a volunteer to trust doctors and seek help. With the homeless, basic needs like food and shelter need to be addressed to establish trust. Then, some therapy and support can be added to continue the journey back to health.