Framework warns of mental heatlh and homelessness link

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14 May 2015
by Neil Skinner

People living with mental health difficulties are at an increased risk of becoming homeless.

Framework, which works to tackle and prevent homelessness across the East Midlands, provides community-based support and specialist accommodation to more than 11,000 people year. In Mental Health Awareness Week (May 11 – 17) it is seeking to highlight the clear links between mental health and homelessness.

Mental health issues remain the single biggest support need of all people seeking Framework’s help, with more than 20 per cent of all people seeking help reporting a primary mental health issue.

Last year (2014/15) Framework helped 377 people in Nottingham and Nottinghamshire who were at risk of losing their homes as a direct result of their mental health problems. 353 of them maintained their tenancy and avoided homelessness as a result. 482 people with mental health issues were accommodated in Framework accommodation services who may otherwise have been homeless.

Currently Framework provides specialist short and long-term accommodation for people with mental health difficulties and community-based homelessness prevention services. Its Street Outreach teams, meanwhile, work on a daily basis with people experiencing serious mental ill-health – estimated to be up to half of the people they encounter.

Graeme Green, Operations Manager for Mental Health Services at Framework, said: “If you were to ask 100 people what the main causes of homelessness are it is unlikely that many of them would mention mental health difficulties. But in reality, mental health sits right at the top of the list of needs presented by the people we support – as a cause and effect of poverty, social exclusion and homelessness.

“Just as physical illnesses and accidents can lead to people losing their homes, mental ill-health can and does lead directly to homelessness crises, because it strips people of their ability to cope with everyday life challenges and makes them more vulnerable to things like debt, rent and mortgage arrears. We help people to confront those challenges in their own homes and also accommodate people in our own residential services. In doing so we are keeping a lid on what would otherwise be a significant problem for other statutory partners like the NHS, the police and the criminal justice system. This practical support prevents problems from escalating into crises, which have a greater impact, and cost burden, on both individuals and the public services which then intervene.”

Taz Foster, Team Leader at Framework’s Moving Forward, works to keep people experiencing mental health difficulties in their homes by addressing he challenges they face.

He added: “People experiencing mental health difficulties are a hugely increased risk of losing their homes – a situation that would exacerbate their symptoms and transfer huge costs on to statutory services. The people we are working with have so many things going on in their lives that managing a household becomes almost a secondary concern. Bills and debts can quickly mount up, vital appointments are missed and relatively minor issues can quickly become big problems.  Other people with mental health challenges can easily find themselves exploited by unscrupulous landlords and living in very poor conditions. Our job is to make sure they don’t end up as another homelessness statistic.”

Framework staff will be taking part in a series of events throughout Mental Health Awareness Week – each designed to challenge the stigma associated with mental health challenges. On Monday, May 11th staff will be visiting the Afro Caribbean National Artistic Centre in Nottingham to challenge negative perceptions of mental health in the black community – speaking to members of this bingo and dominos club.

Support Worker Leslie Robinson explained: “As a service we see a disproportionate number of people from black and ethnic minorities in mental health crisis. I don’t believe, this isn’t because they are naturally more susceptible to mental illness, but because they don’t seek help early enough. There are many reasons for this, including social attitudes and stigma, and we want to take a lead in fighting those attitudes.”

Notes

Mental Health Awareness Week, organised by the Mental Health Foundation, is a national week of action designed to raise awareness of and challenge attitudes to mental health. For more information visit www.mentalhealth.org.uk.

*Figure from Framework Street outreach Monitoring. 27 per cent of people identified a primary or secondary mental health support need. The real figures, however, are thought to be higher when undiagnosed and unrecognised illnesses are taken into account.

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