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Plight of homeless with mental illness

I write to the people of Trinidad and Tobago about the problem of homelessness in our nation. Though I know this does not include all homeless persons, what I am about to say seems to represent the state of the majority of them.

For years people have complained about the homeless in T&T. After observing persons in this state of displacement, I have realised a substantial number of these individuals are victims of mental illness. This is whether their mental state is the result of substance abuse, genetics, or illtreatment.

This knowledge is not new. However, what is disturbing is the Ministry of Health has not devised any plan to help these individuals get better. According to a study by WHO/PAHO $2,794,150,938.07 is allocated for health care by the Ministry of Health, and $103,000,000 of that money is for mental health services. If the amount of money for mental health services is increased, outreach programmes for the homeless can be developed.

I understand many in the state of homelessness struggle with substance abuse, which I am certain resulted in mental breakdowns. This is the reason the implementation of outreach programmes, in which the homeless are given a place to stay once they accept counselling, will be beneficial.

I ask my fellow citizens not to discriminate against those who are less fortunate. I also ask that we treat those who are homeless and struggling with mental illness and addiction with patience and respect. We must understand as well that substance abuse is on the rise in Trinidad and Tobago. This means that there is a high potential for an increase in the number of homeless persons.

I also want to point out that most substance abusers can in actuality be persons self-medicating to deal with life stressors. This leads to addiction, and eventual mental breakdown and homelessness. As a result, I stress that we as Trinbagonians need to push the Ministry of Health to develop programmes to curb substance use and eventual abuse.

We as a nation must change how we treat those homeless with mental illness. For with the rise of substance abuse, anyone or their family member could be in these individuals' place one day.

Annisa Herbert

St Joseph

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