Homeless people are grossly disregarded as being useless strains on society. There are not many things more saddening than to hear someone openly mock a homeless person and to see them as nothing more than scum, dirtying up their beautiful cities with tents and sleeping bags.
Such a lack of empathy and sanctimonious callousness is truly disturbing to me. And yet these are the very opinions that are championed by many of my conservative family members.
If such people only knew the hardships that such a person has endured in their lifetime, albeit physical or psychological abuse in their childhood, as well as knew how pervasive mental illness is among homeless people, then perhaps their ability to empathize would not be as vacuous as it currently is.
The following statistics about the pervasiveness of mental illness among homeless people are from the Brain & Behavior Research Foundation:
According to a 2015 assessment by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, 564,708 people were homeless on a given night in the United States. At a minimum, 140,000 or 25 percent of these people were seriously mentally ill, and 250,000 or 45 percent had any mental illness. By comparison, a 2016 study found that 4.2 percent of U.S. adults have been diagnosed with a serious mental illness.
The foundation also goes on to say that some of the most common mental disorders experienced by the homeless are depression and bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, anxiety disorders, and substance abuse disorders.
According to an article published in 2014 on Harvard.edu, over a five-year period, 2%–3% of the population, as many as 8 million people, will be homeless for at least one night. Of these, 80% find a home within a few weeks, but about 10% remain homeless for a year or more.
Also from Harvard Health Publishing, it was reported that in the year 2000, 30% of patients had a combination of mental health and drug or alcohol problems (dual diagnosis) and another 15% had mental health problems alone. In another survey of more than 10,000 patients treated for serious mental illness in San Diego County, it was found that 15% had been homeless during the previous year.
The correlation is as clear as day here, which is to say that a large portion of the homeless are mentally ill. Even if they were not mentally ill, even if every homeless person on the planet had no signs or symptoms of psychopathology, that still does not exculpate the disdain so many privileged snobs loquaciously spew out as they drive by and see the miserable looks of the homeless as they shamelessly beg for currency just so they can not die.
Sure, not all homeless people should be deserving of sympathy as not every homeless person is a philosophically moral wizard who values the well-being of himself, as well as the well-being of everyone he interacts with on a daily basis.
Nevertheless, this reality still does not erase the fact that there are millions upon millions of homeless people all around the globe, many of which who suffer from untreated mental illness, left to psychologically rot away until their last days.
Homeless people are indeed gross, they are grossly misrepresented as being lazy, irresponsible, disgusting, useless, and an embarrassment in our society. The only embarrassment here is the ethical one that so many people indulge themselves in, which is to literally believe that homeless people are gross.
Thomas is the founder and CEO of PsychTimes.com. He deeply enjoys writing about psychology, mental health, well-being, and ethics. Besides writing, he’s also deeply interested in the many different aspects of digital marketing, specifically search engine optimization. It is due to his love of both psychology and digital marketing, as well as his deep desire to help people who are suffering from mental illness which has inspired him to create this very site.