The festive season is usually a time for family, friends and celebration. But when you’re experiencing homelessness or mental health difficulties, it can be quite the opposite. Many people find Christmas particularly difficult. It’s a time when feelings of isolation and worry can become overwhelming, which can hugely impact a person’s mental health and wellbeing.
Ahead of our joint awareness event with Leeds Mind, we’re taking a look at the link between homelessness and metal health, and why collaboration between different charities is so important.
Raising awareness together
Homelessness and mental health are inextricably linked. Mental health difficulties can be exacerbated by becoming homeless, and becoming homeless can bring on or intensify existing mental health conditions. To talk about one, is almost certainly to talk about the other.
That’s why we’re so pleased to share that on Saturday 9th December, Simon on the Streets will be teaming with Leeds Mind for an afternoon of festive fun and raising awareness at Trinity Shopping Centre in Leeds city centre. It’s set to be a fantastic afternoon of family friendly activities, as well as the perfect opportunity to learn more about the link between homelessness and mental health. We’ll also be highlighting how important it is that we work together, so that we can help every person we work with to find the support they need.
Leeds Mind provides help and support to anyone who needs it in and around Leeds.
The charity helps people discover their own resources to ‘recover’ from periods of poor mental health, and to live life independently with their mental health condition.
They offer many services, including counselling, peer support, social prescribing, employment support, suicide bereavement support, creative wellbeing activities, mental health training and more. You can learn more about their vital work here.
What do we know about mental health and homelessness?
Sadly, we know that both homelessness and mental health challenges can result in a vicious cycle. A cycle that’s very difficult to break.
Statistics gathered by Homeless Link paint a stark and worrying picture. Of their survey of almost 2,800 people, these were just some of their findings:
- Over a three year period, of the 30% of people experiencing homelessness who were admitted to hospital, 28% of those admissions were due to a mental health condition, self-harm or suicide.
- Almost half of respondents said they self-medicate with drugs and alcohol to cope with their mental health conditions.
- Between 2014 and 2021, the number of people diagnosed with a mental health condition in homeless communities almost doubled - rising from 45% to 82%.
Access to healthcare support for those facing homeless
Those living with homelessness often face a great number of barriers when it comes to accessing healthcare, whether in relation to their physical or mental health. Lack of access to GPs mean people experiencing homelessness will disproportionately have to resort to visiting A&E departments to get appropriate help. Unfortunately, this is usually because they’ve reached crisis point.
While people may well receive short term support, this won’t pave the way for long-term, sustainable change, or guarantee referrals to other services that are tailored to their needs.
In June 2023, it was announced that the NHS will be expanding the number of clinics available for homeless communities. Their existing clinics have already brought in a number of doctors, nurses and support workers to signpost people to appropriate charities and other services following their treatment.
There’s still a long way to go when it comes to these services being as widespread across the country. However, it’s encouraging to see decision makers at least recognising that people facing homelessness need consistent access to free, uncomplicated support in order to break the cycles they find themselves in, for good.
We’re very much looking forward to welcoming as many people as possible on Saturday 9th December, so feel free to spread the word! In the meantime, there are also plenty of other ways to get involved with both Simon on the Streets and Leeds Mind. Why not take a look and be part of making a difference this Christmas?