14. The Need for Early Mental Health Intervention to Strengthen Resilience in Street-involved Youth

It is widely known that mental health challenges are common in youth who are street-involved. In keeping with the well-documented mental health profile of street youth, our research indicates that these youth have very high levels of mental health challenges, including depression, hopelessness, and self-harm, as well as issues with substance use. Further findings highlight the clear relationship between the stress of homelessness (e.g. being without a home and money, feeling unsafe, etc.) and emotional distress, such as depression and suicide. There is clearly an urgent need for evidence-based approaches to address the severe and complex mental health problems of homeless youth. It is also important, when building therapeutic programs, to take into account that youth tend to experience both overwhelming despair and, at the same time, hope for a better future. Effective approaches, such as those that focus on developing skills to build relationships, manage distress and strengthen motivation, can disrupt a negative spiral, while at the same time validating and providing skills to support positive choices and behaviours.

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Gaetz, Stephen
O’Grady, Bill
Buccieri, Kristy
Karabanow, Jeff
Marsolais, Allyson
Publication Date: 
Canadian Observatory On Homelessness