Mental health problems among homeless youth are nearly ten times the rates found in youth living in stable homes. Homeless youth, classified as children up to their early twenties, live in shelters, foster homes, juvenile detention centers, friends’ homes, couches, or even on the streets. Many of these young people have left their homes because of sexual abuse, physical abuse, violence, or other traumas. Because of their volatile pasts, they are more likely than other youths to have post-traumatic stress, anxiety, depression, or substance use problems. They are also at increased risk for suicide. Treating these young people is challenging because of the transient nature of their existence. Also, a large number of young people who have experienced betrayal and abuse have difficulty trusting authority figures of any kind, including therapists.
Addressing this problem of mental health and suicide among homeless youth was the focus of a recent study led by Linda Grabbe of the Nell Hodgson Woodruff School of Nursing at Emory University in Georgia. Grabbe wanted to see if mindfulness meditation (MM), a method of therapy that has been proven effective in treating many of the problems that these youths face, could be adapted and delivered in homeless shelters. Grabbe modified the Spiritual Self-Schema MM program and administered it to 39 young people living in a shelter. She evaluated the participants for resiliency, spirituality, mental health, and symptoms of psychological problems before and after the intervention.