Thursday, July 16, 2015

Thoughts on Researching Homeless Youth

Graduate school is hard. Period. Graduate school with small children, I already know that I am a crazy person. People remind me of this ALL the time.
 This semester I am doing a group project about
finding health promotion interventions for homeless youth. One of my jobs in this group project is to find what research has already been done on mental health and suicide among homeless youth. I have to say it is so emotionally draining. I read these articles with hypotheses and theories about what contributes to mental health issues and suicide rates and as technical as it sounds, it's not. Every one of those numbers represents a real child who is going through some really terrible things. The statistics, the details are just ugly. I want to set it aside. But I can't really, finals, end of semester deadlines and all that. (Ok, maybe I can for a minute to write a blog post and to help me process it.) And unpleasant as it is for me to read article after article about kids whose daily life is so terrible that they feel taking their life is the best answer, it is worse for them. It puts things into perspective. My life is pretty amazing. Graduate school has been beastly hard, but I WILL get through it. I have a comfortable home and even though I have to take out mad student loans, we always have food. I have the opportunity to support and love my kids in a way that they will probably never really experience that ugly side of existence. I have friends, family and a husband who support me in little and big ways. I am so grateful for all of that. It make me feel that as blessed as I am, I need to do more. I'm in a place right now, where that is hard. I don't have all the skills that are required to address their needs, but I'm working on getting some. For now I have to be content to study and research, keep loving my kids so they don't get to that place and I can speak out.
 I don't think most people are aware of how big and ugly this problem. It's not a pleasant one to look at, but it effects us in big ways and it is getting bigger. More homeless youth means more crime, which costs us as victims and also in the funds required to put the youth through the criminal system. Homeless youth means more teen pregnancies which is not a good idea for either child involved, and negatively effects the community in many ways. Homeless youth most often take one of two paths- dying young or remaining chronically homeless and on the outskirts of society. In either scenario, we as a society lose. But if we can remember that they are human beings and they just need love, I strongly believe that we can find solutions. It is cheaper to give them housing than to charge them with the crimes that they commit trying to survive, significantly cheaper and it results in better long-term outcomes. We as a society can choose to love them and try to help them and everyone benefits. I'll get off my soapbox, but as you are involved in your communities, try to support local efforts that help these kids and support politicians who are willing to take on this issue.

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