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An ongoing cycle of dysfunction: homeless youth and mental illness

By Alanna Tomazin

There are 300 young people in Bathurst and Orange without a place to call home, one in four of them have experienced a mental health disorder.

The exposure of homelessness can have a devastating impact on individuals; emotionally, physically and mentally.

According to Mission Australia, 14 per cent of homeless adolescents experienced a mental disorder in the first 12 months after they had left home.

There are hidden homeless youths in the Central West alone, who have survived among the general public, slept in cars and spent the nights too cold to bare on a friends couch. 

According to Senior lecturer in Psychology at Charles Sturt University Dr Andrew McGrath, a lack of education was present around homeless youths which has also led them to this difficulty.

“Youth homelessness is a bit of a label, and people judge you on that because they generally think being homeless stands for being a no hoper,” he said. 

This label continues into later years, and as a result homeless youth are more susceptible to develop a mental illness. 

PhD candidate at Murdoch University Jonathon Sae-Kow, said young people who struggled to meet academic demands in school often deterred low confidence and self efficacy. 

He also said poor mental health made it hard when applying for higher education and/or jobs especially if homeless youth were rejected as it pushed them closer to an ongoing and dysfunctional cycle of mental health problems. 

“It’s a disadvantage for them because what they’ve experienced as a homeless youth often rolls into the future.”

Homeless youths are at very high risk of having the following mental health problems as Mr Sae-Kow describes,



The impact of these difficulties can shape their very lives, so it’s important we provide government and volunteer services to give them a chance.


Image: veritashouse.org.au

Dr McGrath said there was a high rate of these various mental health illnesses and psychological disorders suffered by kids who were homeless, but his question remains… 

Did they become homeless because of that psychological disorder, or did they gain a mental health disorder from being homeless…

It’s obvious either way that the disorder would worsen by being homeless, so next time you’re having a bad day, just remember there are people worse off than you. 

If you or someone you know is experiencing a mental crisis please, reach out and call Central West Lifeline on 13 11 14.