L.A. County health officials say 27 percent of its homeless population suffers from serious mental illness

LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- Unemployment and substance abuse play major roles in Los Angeles County's growing homelessness problem, but experts point to mental illness as a factor that often compounds those issues.

The L.A. County Department of Public Health estimates 27% of its homeless population suffers from a serious mental illness.

"Conditions like schizophrenia... manic depression and depression itself are known as big factors," said psychotherapist John Tsilimparis.

He said that acknowledging that a large number of people on the street are mentally ill is the first step toward helping to solve the homelessness problem.

"Its easy to blame the victim," Tsilimparis told Eyewitness News. "If you look down on these people and don't recognize it as a legitimate illness and see mental health conditions as something else, maybe a moral failing or weakness of some kind, things don't change."
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