Mental Health Awareness Week, from 11-17 May, is approaching. Every year, people are encouraged to think about mental health issues, and how they might affect themselves, their loved ones and others around them.
Mental health particularly affects homeless people. According to a recent report from Homeless Link, 32% of those using homelessness services have mental health problems and thus need additional support.
This is to say nothing of those who are ‘hidden’ homeless or sleeping rough. A further health needs audit by Homeless Link of more than 2,500 people who had experienced homelessness, found that 45% had been diagnosed with a mental health issue, and 80% reported some kind of mental health problem.
Riverside projects, with Church Housing Trust’s funding, support mental health issues in a number of ways, be it counselling, art sessions, physical therapies, or practising awareness. For more serious needs, people may visit external counsellors, but holistic support is the main aim.
Last year, a group of homeless people from Anchor Court in Hull took part in Mental Health Awareness Week by going on a countryside walk. The group, all of whom had mental health issues, visited the Humber Bridge Country Park on a sunny May day with a couple of support staff from the scheme. They learned about the woodland area, and were encouraged to appreciate the countryside and take a valuable break from their day-to-day difficulties.
One resident, Gary, commented that he “enjoyed participating in the group walk. It gives me joy to mix with others for a day.”
Alongside proactive mental health support, being in a home of any kind can make a huge difference. A five-year study in Vancouver provided apartments to 500 participants who had been homeless for roughly 10 years; people who were chronically homeless and often experiencing mental illness, most commonly schizophrenia. The study showed dramatic improvements in their overall health.
These included fewer emergency healthcare visits, reduced time spent in institutions, improved quality of life, and less time on the streets. The research showed that the costs of providing these individuals with housing and support, versus leaving them on the street where they may end up in shelters, hospital emergency rooms, and jails, were roughly equivalent.
For more information about Mental Health Awareness Week, visit the Mental Health Foundation’s official website.
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