Working together to achieve better mental health

Monday, 17 December 2018 - 4:28pm

Homeless Link is working on a new project highlighting activities to prevent mental ill-health and promote good mental health for people who are homeless.

The relationship between homelessness and mental health can be complex, where one can be both the cause and result of the other. Unsurprisingly, people without a safe and secure home to live in have high rates of poor mental health. Our data shows that 45% of homeless people had been diagnosed with a mental health issue, which is nearly double that of the general population (25%), and 80% self-reported some form of mental health issue.

In particular, the incidence of depression among people who are homeless is substantially higher. A significant proportion of people who are homeless also have other mental health problems including schizophrenia, bipolar disorder and post traumatic stress disorder.

As St Mungo’s report, the consequences of this can be fatal; 80% of those who died sleeping rough in London last year had a mental health support need. This has risen from 29% in 2010.

Many of our members’ report that the people using their services struggle to access mental health services. From Homeless Link’s 2017 Annual Review, a significant proportion (66%) of respondents reported that their service users encountered difficulties in accessing mental health services.

The stories of many people who are homeless are ones of their mental health deteriorating as their situations get worse; difficulties in accessing services; poor treatment and misdiagnosis. People who sleep rough can often get stuck in vicious cycles where their poor mental health can act as a barrier to engaging with much needed support services and their homelessness situation can act as an obstacle in getting the support they need.

Working together we can end the vicious cycle of poor mental health and homelessness

We are currently contributing to a Health and Wellbeing Alliance project led by the Association of Mental Health Providers which aims to facilitate local and national action around preventing mental health problems and promoting good mental health. The resource developed will collate sources of information and analysis to create a better understanding of the issues related to mental health prevention and provide case study examples from which there can be shared learning.

Homeless Link’s role involves highlighting the specific mental health issues that are encountered by people experiencing homelessness and outlining the homelessness sector’s role in the prevention of mental health conditions. It will also identify specific resources the sector can offer, including existing research, evaluations and case studies.

If you have any examples or case studies of working with people who are homeless and preventing mental ill-health and promoting good mental health you would like us to include please get in contact me at Michaela.DesForges@homelesslink.org.uk. We are particularly interested to hear your examples of good practice for supporting people with their mental health before situations escalate.

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Michaela Des Forges

Michaela Des Forges

Policy manager

Michaela is policy manager at Homeless Link and leads on the Supported Housing Alliance.