Untreated mental illness: From homelessness to incarceration

Untreated mental illness: From homelessness to incarceration

It’s time we accept that mental illness is real, a disease that should be treated on a par with physical illness. But it remains shrouded in stigma and shame, leaving millions of Americans suffer endlessly. An untreated mental disorder can result in homelessness, poverty, incarceration, acts of violence, victimization, suicide and severe clinical outcomes. The results of the untreated condition are often the causes behind it. The longer the treatment is delayed, more difficult it becomes for someone to cope with the demands of daily life, leading to financial troubles, worsening of existing symptoms and deterioration of the overall quality of life.

Mental health does not go away on its own and the longer it stays, the harder it gets to treat it effectively.

  • Effects on physical health: While it is common for people with physical illness to experience mental distress, living a life with some sort of a mental illness can become challenging too. It can result in physical problems, including muscle and joint pain, digestive troubles, headache and cardiovascular problems, among others. Chronic mental health issues may also cause one to neglect his or her health, which worsens the symptoms.
  • Homelessness and financial insecurity: People living on the streets have higher chances of developing mental disorders due to marginalization and lack of support, but untreated mental illnesses can interfere with daily activities, making living a burden. They are more likely to affect one’s ability to remain in a job and interact with others. It can lead to loss of job, status and respect, and lack of employment, presence of a mental illness and neglect by the family can further exacerbate the chances of someone becoming homeless.
  • Violence, victimization and incarceration: Mental illness can make it extremely difficult for someone to follow the norms of the society. Unfortunately, people with mental illnesses are perceived as a threat to the society and instead of getting the much-deserved treatment, they are more likely to land up in jails. Untreated mental illness can make someone a victim or perpetrator of crime. There are approximately 1,000 homicides committed by people with an untreated mental illness. It is important to note that mental illness does not cause violence but an untreated condition makes one susceptible to indulge in risky behavior.
  • Suicide: A serious and potentially life-threatening illness, an untreated mental disorder can make life seem unbearable for the sufferer. A person may harbor suicidal thoughts and make several attempts as well. It is estimated that untreated depression and substance abuse problems are responsible for nearly 90 percent of suicide cases.

Gaps in mental health treatment

Given the existence of inadequate access to mental health treatment and effective treatment options, many mental health patients still go untreated. The reasons could be many — cost of medication, lack of support from family, friends and society, discrimination and lack of willingness on the part of the sufferer. The stigma surrounding mental illness discourages people to seek professional treatment and share their grief. Due to the high cost, many patients fail to continue with the treatment and are forced to abandon the process mid-way. In addition, political as well as socio-economic factors also play a role in widening the gap in mental health diagnosis and care services.

Getting adequate treatment is key to early recovery

While the journey to complete recovery may not be easy, it is not impossible. Faith-based treatment programs can offer a ray of hope to those in distress. Guided by compassion, faith-based groups or communities foster healing and growth in individuals by providing mental health services with care and compassion in the name of Christ. Often, the first step toward bridging the gap begins by erasing the stigma attached with mental illness and providing strength to those suffering through spirituality, prayer, community service and pastoral counseling.

At the 247 mental health treatment helpline, we can help you understand more about mental health disorders, identify the symptoms and connect you to the best treatment centers in the U.S. Reach out to us at our 24/7 helpline number (855) 653-8178 or chat online with a representative to get connected to the finest 247 mental health treatment center today.