UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

At the intersection of risk : understanding youth who experience both homelessness and parental mental illness Raithby, Tess


Youth of parents experiencing mental illness are overrepresented amongst homeless and street-involved youth. Understanding the relationship between parental mental illness and youth wellbeing within this population is vital to providing support. This study had two objectives. The first was to describe the lives of youth experiencing this crossover of homelessness and parental mental illness. The second was to determine the relationship between the number of parents experiencing mental illness that a youth has and their wellbeing. Youth with parents experiencing mental illness were at higher risk for relational, environmental, physical and mental health challenges than their street-involved peers who did not have parents with mental illness. Youth who reported both parents as having mental illness experienced the greatest difficulty, followed by youth with one parent with mental illness, then by youth with neither parent with mental illness, suggesting that the challenge experienced was incremental to the number of parents with mental illness. The only area of wellbeing where youth of parents with mental illness did not differ from their peers without parents with mental illness was in their school attendance and aspirations, as well as their thoughts on where they would be in the future, which were largely hopeful. As this population becomes known to front line workers, policy influencers, and policy makers, there is a need for further support that fits with their unique needs. The resources that the youth identified as needed in communities across British Columbia were safe and affordable housing, job training, food, mental health supports, and more. Acknowledging this population of youth experiencing the intersection of both homelessness and parental mental illness means bringing to light their prevalence as well as addressing their difficulties with appropriate and wanted services.

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