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Running head: Schizophrenia in the Streets 1

Schizophrenia in the Streets

Valerie Wallace
Bon Secours Memorial College of Nursing


Schizophrenia is a commonly debilitating mental illness that causes changes in a persons

cognition and affect (Tench, 2016). Symptoms of schizophrenia vary from person to person, but

may include: audio hallucinations, visual hallucinations, paranoia, delusions, and muscular

abnormalities such as rigidity or waxy flexibility (Tench, 2016). It is not surprising then that

individuals suffering with schizophrenia typically land in low socioeconomic roles.

Perception is a highly individualized experience, yet perception in schizophrenia can be

so far from that of the general pubic that a mentally healthy individual would see the

schizophrenics perception as distorted. Friendships and even family ties can be extremely

difficult for the person with schizophrenia to maintain, as other people struggle to connect with

this person and vice versa. Lacking a strong support system, many people with schizophrenia

are missing an important component in mental illness recovery that could aid them with coping.
Finding and maintaining a job can be next to impossible for a person lacking social skills.

Most employment opportunities require interactions with customers or co-workers. At the very

least, one must attend an interview and leave a positive impression with the interviewer. Such a

feat can be monumentally difficult for a person suffering with uncontrolled schizophrenia.
Services for those with schizophrenia and other mental illnesses exist; however, access to

these resources is not always easily obtained. As illustrated, financial and social supports are

often lacking in the schizophrenic population. It takes a multidisciplinary approach to aid those

with schizophrenia with medication adherence, social skills, independent-living skills, and job

training; as beneficial as this approach seems, it is common for those suffering with

schizophrenia to lack the knowledge and trust necessary to turn to these resources for help.

Additionally, these resources are more heavily present in urban areas, and are less common in

suburban and rural areas. Therefore, a disproportionate number of individuals with

schizophrenia wind up living on the streets.

Services and Treatment

In the Richmond area alone there is a vast number of resources available to aid homeless

individuals with food and shelter. Organizations that help the needy include: the Daily Planet,

The Salvation Army, Homeward, Caritas, and countless churches, shelters, and food pantries.

While the prevalence of assistance is tremendous in urban areas, individuals with schizophrenia

need more than food and shelter; they need a multidisciplinary care team to aid in their recovery.

Some organizations, such as the Daily Planet, provide mental health and case management

services (Daily Planet, n.d.). Additionally, Caritas serves the homeless population by providing

job and skills training (Caritas, 2016). Services such as the Daily Planet and Caritas are

invaluable for their contributions to the mentally ill homeless population; however, there is a

limit to the numbers they can serve, and furthermore, there are still more people with

schizophrenia that will lack the knowledge or the trust to seek out these services.
Federal Guidelines
The prevalence of homelessness among the schizophrenic population has not gone

unnoticed by national and international agencies. An objective of Healthy People 2020 aims at

increasing the number of homeless adults suffering with mental illness that receive mental health

services (Healthy People, 2016). According to Healthy People, a mere 37% of mentally ill

homeless individuals were receiving mental health services in 2006 (2016). The World Health

Organization (WHO) describes ideal treatment for schizophrenia as maintaining a proper

medication regimen coupled with psychosocial supports. Many of the people with schizophrenia

are not receiving this ideal care; however, the WHO describes models in countries such as India

and Ethiopia where treatment has been more widespread and more beneficial thanks to efforts in

reducing the stigma against mental illness, training health care professionals, and providing skills

training, employment, and housing to those with schizophrenia and their families (2015). There

is still a lot of work that needs to be done if the majority of homeless schizophrenics are to be

receiving the treatment they need for recovery; however, the US is progressing towards that goal.
Schizophrenia is a potentially crippling mental illness. Sufferers have an altered view of

reality, making essential skills such as social, computer, and even coping skills vastly difficult to

learn. In turn, a disproportionate percentage of the homeless population is made up of

individuals suffering with schizophrenia that are not receiving the proper treatment. Ideally, a

greater number of these people would be receiving mental health services, including

psychosocial support and a therapeutic medication regimen. Services are in place to meet these

goals that were designed by national and international agencies; however, more mental health

services for the homeless are still needed if we are to help integrate this population back into



Caritas. (2016). Works. Retrieved from

Daily Planet. (n.d.). Services. Retrieved from


Healthy People. (2016). Mental health and mental disorders. Retrieved from


Tench, T. (2016). Schizophrenia spectrum and other psychotic disorders [PowerPoint slides].

Retrieved from


World Health Organization. (2015). Schizophrenia. Retrieved from