More and more lately, a tie between schizophrenia and homelessness is becoming apparent. Certain symptoms of the illness, the stigma of it and the difficulties these present to the sufferer make it extraordinarily difficult for schizophrenics to find and keep work. Therefore, it is very difficult for them to find homes. On top of this, schizophrenics are notoriously difficult to live with and family members often find it hard to take them in. It is also hard for a person suffering from schizophrenia to live with other people, as they are often paranoid.
What is schizophrenia?
Schizophrenia is a chronic brain disorder. It often disables its victims, when they go untreated. It can also lead to depression and other mental problems.
The symptoms of schizophrenia are many and not all sufferers display the same symptoms. However, some symptoms are common. Schizophrenics may suffer from delusions of persecution, paranoia, hallucinations (especially auditory hallucinations or “hearing voices”) and they may display strange behavior. They may make no sense when they tell you things or tell you far-fetched stories. This is because their delusions and hallucinations become their reality. Therefore, a schizophrenic is not necessarily lying when they tell you something like they are or know a famous person or any other such unbelievable thing. However, pathological lying and schizophrenia sometimes come hand in hand.
Schizophrenia tends not to affect people under 10 or over 40-years-old. That is not to say that such cases do not occur, but they are rare. Males schizophrenics between the ages of 15 and 35 appear to be affected the most, with more hospitalizations occurring. Schizophrenia tends to manifest in men around the age of 18; twenty-five is the average age of onset for women.
Homelessness and schizophrenia
Roughly 1% of people over the age of 18 suffer from schizophrenia. Six-percent of people who suffer from schizophrenia are homeless, another six-percent are in jail, 25% live with their families, 10% are in nursing homes and an estimated 5-6% live in hospitals. According to these estimations, less than 30% of schizophrenics are live independently. Six-percent of all schizophrenics may not sound like much, but according to some estimates, they make up roughly one-third of all homeless people. According to neuropsychiatrist, Richard Wyatt M.D., most schizophrenics are not able to work.
Why are so many schizophrenics homeless?
Why so many schizophrenics are homeless is a much simpler question than how to reverse this trend. Schizophrenics are often paranoid and therefore, they are afraid of other people. Furthermore, they are often depressed, sometimes suicidal and oftentimes delusional. How can someone like that work and provide for themselves? In fact, many of them who are homeless are so averse to being around other people that they do not even seek shelters. They stay outdoors. It is a very sad condition that is often misunderstood.
Some (certainly not all) schizophrenics would be able to keep simple jobs and homes, if it were not for the stigma of their condition. Who would want to hire someone who talks to themselves or tells people stories that sound like outright lies? Furthermore, aren’t schizophrenics prone to violence? The answer to that is no. Schizophrenics are far more likely to hurt themselves than anyone else and are only very, very slightly more likely to harm another. You would be taking virtually the same risk hiring a schizophrenic than anyone else. However, their ability to function is often severely impaired, so, as mentioned above, simple jobs would be best.
What can you do to help schizophrenic homeless persons?
Unfortunately, very few, if any, major charities are specifically for schizophrenic homeless persons. However, by helping your local homeless, odds are you will help a schizophrenic homeless person. Luckily, there are several ways you can do that.
Homeless shelters and charitable organizations are always looking for donations. You can donate food, blankets, water, clothing and even books. As mentioned above, many schizophrenics avoid shelters. You can still help them by donating to local food pantries. Homeless persons often go to these places for food.
To help the schizophrenic homeless, you can also donate your time. Charities can use all sorts of help, from sorting and moving donated items to reaching out to the homeless. You can also spend some time serving food in a local soup kitchen. You do not have to put in much time to make your work go a long way in helping.
Schizophrenia facts and statistics, retrieved 7/10/10, schizophrenia.com/szfacts.htm
What are the symptoms of schizophrenia?, retrieved 7/10/10, mimh.nih.gov/health/publications/schizophrenia/what-are-the-symptoms-of-schizophrenia.shtml