Mental Health and Youth Homelessness: Understanding the Overlaps

depressed teen migrants illegally sailing on boat hope for bright future

Mental Health Services Are Essential for RHY

Emphasizing mental health is fundamental to runaway and homeless youth (RHY) services. Youth experiencing or at risk for homelessness have higher rates of mental health issues, including depression, anxiety and conduct disorders than those in stable homes. And a lack of access to behavioral health care further complicates most individuals’ ability to seek treatment. For organizations and providers focused on at-risk youth, prioritizing mental health is the key to long-term success for runaway and homeless teens.

Overview: Higher Risk

Mental health is necessary for leading a successful and happy life. For youth and young adults still developing, mental health issues can be particularly crucial – this is especially true for homeless and at-risk youth.

Did you know:

  • Homeless students reported significantly higher rates of depression than housed students (45% vs. 27%).
  • More than half of the homeless students who attempted suicide reported that they required medical attention afterward, compared to 37% of housed students.
  • Homeless students who were the victims of bullying were much more likely to report depression (63%) than those who were not bullying victims (34%).
  • Depression can lead to harmful behaviors such as alcohol and substance abuse...homeless students reporting depression were more than twice as likely to binge drink as housed students reporting depression (41% vs. 19%).

Why Mental Health Matters

Successfully identifying and treating mental health issues youth and young adults are facing is the key to lifelong emotional and mental well-being. For runaway and at-risk youth, mental health issues can lead to a host of other struggles, including:

  • Higher school dropout rates
  • Greater risk for substance use
  • Higher rates of unemployment and informal work
  • Longer and more frequent bouts of homelessness

The Latest in Mental Health News from the Field

teens in group therapy;