Mental disorder, service use, and barriers to care among 500 homeless people in 3 different urban settings


To determine the standardized rates of mental disorder, health service use and barriers to care in a representatively diverse sample of homeless adults in three different sized urban centers in British Columbia, Canada.


Five hundred homeless adults from Vancouver, Victoria and Prince George were recruited. The MINI-International Neuropsychiatric Interview PLUS was used to determine current and lifetime rates of mental disorder, mental disorder episodes and suicidality. Health service use and barriers to care were recorded.


Overall, 92.8 % of participants met criteria for a current mental disorder: 82.6 % for alcohol or drug dependence, 57.3 % anxiety disorder, 31.5 % mood disorder. Over half (53.4 %) met criteria for a concurrent disorder. Only 14.9 % had seen a psychiatrist and 12.7 % a mental health team in the year prior to the survey. Most common barriers included being poorly connected to the system of care and issues related to homelessness. Mental disorder rates across sites were high, however, differences were found that reflected the composition of the samples.


Improving the mental health state of the homeless will require significant capacity for mental health and concurrent disorder programming that is tailored to the community it intends to serve. Demographic features of the population may help in directing assessments of need.

Publication Date: 
Journal Name: 
Social Psychiatry and Psychiatric Epidemiology
BC, Canada