Interview: Medical Treatment and the Homeless/Mentally Ill

A few weeks ago, I had the pleasure of personally interviewing a friend of mine in the medical field, who works as a Psychiatric RN in the inpatient psychiatric department. The intentions that spawned my interview were to inquire about the impact of mental illness, and how it could potentially lead to homelessness. I must admit, that the information that was disclosed was simultaneously alarming and educational.

Before jumping straight into the aftermath of the patients after they were released from the psychiatric department, I wanted to achieve a better understanding of the illness that the patients suffered from, and the impact it bestowed upon their lives. I began the interview by asking my RN friend, what the severity level of her patients were at the time of their administration, and she quickly responded by stating that the patients were at an acute stage, they were often times unable to care for themselves because of the extreme depression, or they were experiencing a lapse with mania. Within the 72- hr timeframe,  the hospital has legal rights to hold a patient in the psychiatric department(if the patient is not admitted by will, however there are circumstances where the hospital can petition the court if the patient is not voluntarily abiding by the hospitals recommended action plan for treatment to extend the 72-hour hold.) there are a lot of hurdles that must be attempted by the staff. After a patient has been admitted, they are treated by a psychiatrist, and a treatment plan is implemented with the help of social worker’s. The patients are given 24-hour care from the nursing team, a medication regime, and the expectation that they will attend outside programming. There are however, some instances where the patient must be forced to take medication if they become violent, or unwilling to do so themselves.

After the patients are released from the hospital, they often times relapse and discontinue use of their medications,  but why would they stop taking their medications, if they are prescribed in efforts of alleviating their illness? According to my RN friend, patients will often discontinue use of medications due to side effects such as, extreme weight gain, Parkinson’s “like” side effects which manifest as tremors, shuffling gait, or distortion of the face, also impotence is a common factor in the discontinued use.

I later asked her if their were specific mental illness’ that garnered a higher risk of equating to homelessness as opposed to others. Yes, there were. Schizophrenia ranked at the top of the list. She stated that a lot of times patients suffering from schizophrenia would be discharged to the streets with no standing residence, and the hospitals are unable keep them due to lack of staff and overcrowding. The resources for those suffering from a mental illness is extremely vague and limited, and most friends and family have given up all hope and faith.

There is a blatant and eery cry that is claiming our community, and so I leave you with this question: How do we change behaviors, disseminate this message so that the cries little by little, become a faded echo within our past?


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