Mental Health and Homelessness

A high percentage of homeless youth experience declining mental health. 85.4% of homeless youth fall into the “high symptom/distress” category for mental health and 42% have reported at least one suicide attempt. And yet, they don’t always receive the same empathy, treatment or understanding that others in society may receive. This experience from one of our youth employees tragically outlines how her mental disorder was dismissed and she had to struggle to prove she was suffering. With World Mental Health Week drawing to a close, we wanted to share this as a friendly reminder that it is crucial to always listen with the same compassion to everyone suffering from mental health issues, regardless of their current situations, so that we can all receive the treatment and help that we need without judgement and without prejudice.

"The first seizure I ever experienced happened at a youth shelter.
I had been staying there for two days when I suddenly collapsed on the floor in the kitchen and started convulsing. A staff member rushed to me and quickly rolled me onto my side however, in the process, my body reacted and I accidentally hit her in the jaw.

An ambulance was called and I was taken to the hospital where I was admitted into the mental health unit for being in a suicidal state of mind. I thought I was going to receive the help I needed but it was not easy.

Nurses in the emergency mental health unit were quick to conclude that my seizures were “fake” and that I was putting on an act for attention. They were quick to dismiss my extreme stress and always said they “weren’t real seizures” when in fact, doctors would later confirm that my seizures were caused by stress and were actually a result of Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

It is sad that my mental health was not taken seriously whether on account of my age or the fact that I was in a youth shelter. It is difficult enough to have to deal with the trauma of experiencing a seizure but to have to CONVINCE medical professionals that it was not “fake” seemed wrong.

To make matters worse, when I was finally allowed to return to the youth shelter, I was greeted with a notice stating I was banned for two years from staying there as a result of assaulting a staff member. No matter how much I tried to explain that I was having a seizure and it was not an intentional assault, I was not heard. They too believed I had faked the seizure and I was kicked out with nowhere to go.

It is hard to not wonder why certain people would not accept my medical condition for what it is. To have to deal with something like that and have to convince people that I was actually suffering is almost too much of a burden. I hope that my experience sends the message that no one ever “fakes” mental health disorders and that we are all taken seriously for the conditions we have so we can receive the help we need. I am relieved that I eventually received the help I need and am able to see the professionals I do today to help me stay mentally healthy."

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