Education Public health psychiatry

What Should I Talk About?

Dear reader, what do you suggest I talk about during a presentation about homelessness and mental illness?

I’ve been invited to talk to a small class at the large local university about homelessness and mental illness. The overall course is about homelessness (I think) and the students apparently range from undergraduates to medical students to faculty. It sounds like it’s one of those seminar courses that is not required for anyone, which means that the students presumably have an active interest in this topic and want to be there.

It seems that an introductory overview, 101-level talk might make the most sense, but I only have one hour and this topic is vast. While I always do my best to make statistics and data interesting, I don’t know that rattling off percentages is the best use of time. Anecdotes and cases are compelling, though I worry about missing larger points about the intersection of homelessness and mental illness.

Some of you have been reading my writing online for years (decades?–thank you for the gift of your attention!) and some of you have not, though I get the sense that most of you have some interest in psychiatry and homelessness. If we work with the assumption that this class has similar interests as yours, what do you suggest I talk about? What would be most interesting or compelling to you about the topic of homelessness and mental illness? If I’ve written something here in the past on this topic that you found useful and could share in this class, could you let me know?

It’s been years since I’ve opened comments on my blog (due to spam comments and some veiled death threats), but it’s a new year and I would like to learn from you. Please leave a comment below with your advice and suggestions. Thank you!

4 replies on “What Should I Talk About?”

Hi Maria. I hope you and yours are well. Your most recent post resonated with me as we are working with a client who has been unhoused for a long time. She was recently housed at the Union Hotel, however, she is attached to an encampment that she shares with her partner and his partner. She has mental illness, is very vulnerable and is not wanting to stay in her new apartment due to her relationship status. She is not wanting to stay on this apartment as she is connected to her community in the encampment. Not sure if this fits what you are working on, but it is relevant to the plight of our clients who need extra support.

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Hi Maria. I like your focus on respecting the autonomy of people without homes and people with mental illness. I have seen you connect with people on a personal level to facilitate them with making their own decisions rather than deciding for them.

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hi! been a follower since before the nyc days. glad things are going well. you should talk about why sometimes people don’t want to go to they are “happy” or feel safe with the situation they are in. regardless how frustrating it makes care providers, family etc. or talk about how frustrating it is to find adequate care..up here in the white mtns of nh i can’t get a dr…they keep leaving. so i have none. not even a nurse practioner. talk about falling thru the black hole. never mind there aren’t beds for care there isn’t even anyone to see to keep me out of them. the one therapist i could find spent the session letting me know that folks with my diagnosis are usually institutionalized. gee thanks. talk about this.

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Any stories about individuals and their strengths would be good. I think they can get data and percentages from elsewhere but not always the perspective of assuming competence and resilience and that people are making the best choices they can.

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