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Mental illness among 500 people living homeless and referred for psychiatric evaluation in Lisbon, Portugal

Ana Monteiro Fernandes, , António Bento, Diogo Telles-Correia
Published: 25 May 2021

Abstract: Background Our goal was to identify the demographic profile of the people living homeless with mental illness in Lisboa, Portugal, and their relationship with the national healthcare system. We also tried to understand which factors contribute to the number and duration of psychiatric admissions among these homeless people. Methods We used a cross-sectional design, collecting data for 4 years among homeless people, in Lisboa, Portugal, that were referred as possible psychiatric patients to Centro Hospitalar Psiquiátrico de Lisboa (CHPL). In total, we collected data from 500 homeless people, then crosschecked these people in our CHPL hospital electronic database and obtained 467 patient matches. Results The most common psychiatric diagnosis in our sample was drug abuse (34%), followed by alcohol abuse (33%), personality disorder (24%), and acute stress reaction (23%). Sixty-two percent of our patients had multiple diagnoses, a subgroup with longer follow-ups, more psychiatric hospitalizations, and longer psychiatric hospitalizations. The prevalence of psychotic disorders was high: organic psychosis (17%), schizophrenia (15%), psychosis not otherwise specified (14%), and schizoaffective disorder (11%), that combined altogether were present in more than half (57%) of our homeless patients. Conclusion The people living homeless with multiple diagnoses have higher mental health needs and worse determinants of general health. An ongoing effort is needed to identify and address this subgroup of homeless people with mental illness to improve their treatment and outcomes.
Keywords: psychiatric / homeless / abuse / longer / CHPL / psychosis / referred / stress / treatment / mental

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