Mental Health Challenges and Strengths of Street-Involved Youth: The Need for a Multi-determined Approach

Elizabeth McCay, John Langley, Heather Beanlands, Linda Cooper, Naomi Mudachi, Andrea Harris, Rebecca Blidner, Karen Bach, Colin Dart, Carol Howes, Susan Miner

Abstract


The social environments and activities of homeless youth frequently create a downward spiral, leading to drug abuse and survival sex as well as self-harm behaviours and suicidality. This study employed a mixed-methods approach to assess the mental health challenges and strengths of street-involved youth. A convenience sample of 70 homeless young people completed a series of standardized questionnaires evaluating mental health symptoms as well as resilience and self-esteem. Two focus groups were also held to capture the perceived mental health needs of street-involved youth. These young people (aged 16-24) were found to have high levels of mental health symptoms compared to other groups of young adults. However, they also exhibited moderately high levels of resilience and self-esteem. Therefore, multi-component mental health programs and interventions that address both strengths and challenges may well help street-involved youth to work towards social re-integration and, ultimately, improved quality of life.

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