Emotional Distress and Mental Health Services Use Among Urban Homeless Adolescents

The Expanded Behavioral Model for Vulnerable Populations was used to examine the predisposing, enabling, and need factors associated with mental health service use in a homeless adolescent sample (N?=?688). Among all youth, 32% perceived a need for help with mental health problems and 15% met Brief-Symptom Inventory (BSI) criteria for emotional distress. The rate of mental health service use in our sample was 32%. One enabling factor, having a case manager/discussed mental health concerns, and one need factor, which met criteria for BSI, were found to be associated with mental health service use in the past 3 months. The majority of youth who used mental health services had obtained services from crisis centers. Among those who perceived a need for help with mental health problems but who did not use services, the most common barrier was not knowing where to go or what service to use (57%). These findings suggest that due to the high prevalence of mental health problems among homeless youth, it would be helpful for service providers coming into contact with youth to make them aware of existing community resources for mental health services; making youth aware of these resources may in turn decrease the rate of crisis center use and instead allow youth to receive mental health services in outpatient settings that provide continuity of care. (Authors)

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Journal of Behavioral Health Services and Reserach