Home > Mental illness among the homeless: prevalence study in a Dublin homeless hostel.

Prinsloo, Bernice and Parr, Catherine and Fenton, Joanne (2012) Mental illness among the homeless: prevalence study in a Dublin homeless hostel. Irish Journal of Psychological Medicine, 29, (1), pp. 22-26. doi: 10.1017/S0790966700017560.

Objective: To determine the prevalence of mental illness among the residents of a homeless hostel in inner city Dublin.

Method: A cross-sectional survey was carried out among hostel residents, as previous studies have indicated that homeless hostel-dwelling men in Dublin constitute the largest single grouping of homeless Irish people. All agreeable residents were interviewed by the authors over an eight-week period using the Structured Clinical Interview for DSM-IV Axis I Disorders (SCID-I) Clinical Version. For each disorder, the current (30-day) and past prevalence was determined.

Results: A total of 38 residents were interviewed, resulting in a response rate of 39.2% for the study. A total of 81.6% of residents had a current Axis I diagnosis; this number increased to 89.5% when combining current and past diagnoses. Only four residents had no diagnosis. There was considerable comorbidity between disorders, with a significant number of residents experiencing both mental illness and substance use problems. When considering lifetime diagnoses, 31.6% had a single diagnosis only; 57.9% had two/more diagnoses. Twelve residents (31.6%) had been admitted to a psychiatric hospital during their lifetime. The most prevalent disorders during the past month were Alcohol Dependence (23.7%), Opioid Dependence and Major Depressive Disorder (both 18.4%), Opioid Abuse and Alcohol-Induced Depression (both 7.9%). Only 23.7% of interviewed residents were attending psychiatric or addiction services. A significant number of residents who did not wish to participate in the study were identified by hostel staff as having a confirmed psychiatric diagnosis.

Conclusion: The survey demonstrated a very high prevalence of mental disorders among homeless hostel residents. The high prevalence of dual diagnosis highlights the need for greater collaboration between psychiatric services and addiction The outcome also points to the importance of providing mental health training to emergency shelter/hostel staff. Research into the mental health status of the homeless should be undertaken regularly if services are to be planned to meet the needs of this vulnerable group.

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