Homelessness: The Result and Sometimes the Cause of PTSD
We don't know the reason why a particular event is traumatic for some but not for others, or why a particular situation leads to PTSD in some and not others. What is known is that PTSD changes the body's response to stress by affecting the stress hormones and chemicals that carry information between the nerves.
“You know that feeling you get when someone jumps out
and scares you and you are on high alert for a few minutes?
For someone with PTSD, that alertness never goes away.”
Everyone knows that PTSD from a traumatic event can be one of the leading factors of someone becoming homeless, but not many look at it the other way around; that becoming homeless is the traumatic event that causes PTSD.
It could be the experience of someone losing their home or the trauma of being separated from or losing family that leads to homelessness.
It could be a traumatic event that occurred while homeless, like a robbery or an assault.
Most surprisingly, simply the experience of living on the streets, itself, can cause PTSD.
Any of these situations can contribute to a vicious cycle of trauma that is impossible for some to escape. Other homeless people might not even realize they have PTSD; they might think something else is wrong. And then there are those unwilling to address the issue out of embarrassment - there is a stigma to homelessness and mental health issues - or out of anxiety and insecurity.
Haven Toronto has onsite counsellors and outreach social workers who assist elder homeless men with crisis intervention, including issues related to mental health and PTSD. The drop-in centre, itself, is an inviting space where clients are treated with respect, afforded dignity, and feel safe addressing challenges related to PTSD and other health and mental health issues.