Mental Health Awareness Week 2017 - Homelessness and mental health

It’s Mental Health Awareness Week and we caught up with Raphael, our Wellbeing Coordinator, to find out more about mental health, homelessness and what we’re doing at Providence Row to help people with their recovery.

We all have a state of mental health and wellbeing that will fluctuate throughout our lives, however our susceptibility to developing a mental illness can vary greatly from person to person. Current or past trauma, divorce or bereavement, living in poverty or social isolation, reduced family or social support networks, unemployment, work-related or financial stress, housing status, substance misuse and genetic make-up are just some of the things which may contribute to a decline in a person’s mental health. Although society’s acceptance and understanding of mental health has come a long way, a stigma still exists around mental health, where negative stereotypes still guide perceptions and prevent people from seeking help when they need it most. Consequently people can end up feeling marginalised and isolated in their illness, instead of receiving the support they need in a society where they feel included.

If you are homeless the problems which contribute to poor mental health are commonplace and this may go some way to explaining why rates of mental illness are far higher for people affected by homelessness. But unlike the general population, people who are homeless not only face the stigma associated with mental health, but also the stigma associated with homelessness. In addition they often also struggle to access mental health services and have less control over their recovery due to their circumstances. Some may also have a ‘dual-diagnosis’, which means substance misuse issues are intrinsically linked with their mental health illness. For some, drugs and alcohol provide a form of self-medication but may also exacerbate their symptoms and increase their risk of relapse.        

Mental Health Awareness Week is a great opportunity to talk openly with the people we work with and our wider community about mental health. Through our conversations and shared experience comes greater understanding and acceptance of poor mental health as an illness rather than a stereotype. We can also share knowledge and techniques to enable people to keep well and thrive in their communities and by doing so we give people the best possible chance of recovery. 

Through the Learning and Wellbeing programme at Providence Row, participants can build a meaningful routine and timetable, providing structure, a sense of productivity and an opportunity to contribute to the wider community.  For people who are so often isolated and marginalised within our society, group activities provide a safe place for positive social interaction and self-expression. Specific groups and therapeutic interventions are tailored to support clients in their mental health, as well as their addiction problems, while creative and educational groups provide the opportunity to develop new skills and interests, to enable clients to build the confidence they need to progress to a happy, independent life in the future.