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


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.