Does homelessness cause mental ill health or vice versa?
The question I used to ask myself often, was how someone ends up homeless on the streets? I struggled to comprehend how. However, over time and more insight into the subject matter, I learnt a lot more about the reasons why people find themselves seeking solace away from the norm and find themselves in the situation where they have no shelter. Through studies and research, I found the intrinsic link between mental ill health and the homeless. I am fully aware of the horrors that exist and the likelihood of the persons story
As an individual, I am an inquisitive but also very open and liberal with my views. However, the general public to appear to lack understanding and empathy towards someone they see on the streets.
It’s hard for people to identify with someone who is sat on a street floor and begging for money, or simply sleeping rough and minding their own business. For someone who leads a relatively normal life; with no mental health concerns how could they relate to someone whose life is not on the same level or to be able to try and comprehend why or how someone would live on the streets.
We need to accept that our universe is problematic, we don’t always have the answers. But we do have the compassion, it’s learning to use it in the right way.
Our mental health is based on variants happening in our world at the time. For some, a gentle cruise through life with no upset can lead to holding a good job, a happy home and family. Unenlightened to the darker aspects of society and dangers that exist. For those that are fortunate to never entail the issues of mental health or the lifetime of abuse, that’s OK!! no one is judging you. However, for others, life is simply not smooth. Below are triggers that may result in someone on the streets;
Biological risk factors that place a person at higher risk of mental illness
- Stressors and triggers such as; trauma, abuse can reduce someone’s resilience levels which places them at a higher risk of ending up homeless;
- The effects of childhood abuse all aspects such as sexual, physical and emotional and neglect;
- Substance misuse which can all be a direct result of above;
- Little or no access to support networks such as; mental health care, social support, families, housing;
- Government policies that make it difficult for those vulnerable;
- Long term illness or disability;
- Fleeing a domestic abuse situation;
Cause of effect?
- Crisis magazine 2009 suggest that mental health problems and the homeless are common
- Psychosis is 4-15 times more likely that the rest of the population.
- PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) is prevalent
- Depression is common
- Boys tend to come from childhood physical abuse
- Girls tend to come from childhood sexual abuse
Health implications the homeless face
Mental health is linked to physical health FACT. Therefore, the homeless are at high risk of living on the streets with symptoms of both mental and physical concerns. Homeless people have less access to local services such as GPs where it is a requirement that they are registered in order to access these services. Homeless are more likely to access emergency services to be able to treat both mental and physical health issues.
What can we do to help?
When you see someone on the streets, say hi, smile and ask them how they are? Show them respect. People living on the streets can go for days without speaking to another compassionate soul. I think when someone is in the depths of depression and they have nowhere to go or no one to turn to, this can place them at higher risk of suicide. We live in a modern world where time is of the essence and we can rush around and miss the world in the blink of an eye. Look up from our phones, look around you and begin to notice. You only have to walk the streets of London to encounter 1-50 homeless people. Stop and say hi and ask if there is anything they need.
It’s so easy to gather your old clothes (that are in a good state, not ones that are ready for the bin). Blankets, coats, books and non-perishable items. You can always donate to homeless shelters electrical items and appliances, phone cards, and other items that maybe useful. If you manage to raise money, then you could donate money or put money on Greggs cards to hand out to the homeless. They can find it easier to go into the store and get warm food that they choose themselves, it regains their self-dignity and pride.
If you have time, then maybe you can volunteer yourself. This is always a hard one to do as we all have busy lives. However, if you find yourself looking for ways to help, then contact your local homeless shelter and offer what you can.
Establish what your good at and offer this as a service. Maybe run a class at your local shelter. You could be teaching someone who is homeless the basic skills they need to get themselves back in the employment ladder. It could be typing skills, language skills, carpentry, nutrition or childcare. Who knows what skills you have to offer?
Become an advocate. Contact your local homeless shelter and find out what help they need, if they need any donations and what they are? You could then organise food drives, or other fundraising events.
It may involve contacting local newspapers, or radio stations to try and gather donations and raise publicity.
Tell a professional- Street link is a Government funded service which allows people to alert local authorities in England and Wales about the people who are sleeping rough on the streets.
Most of all BE KIND. Make someone’s day, and smile. We all have human compassion and we never know what windy road life will take us down next. We never know if one day that might be us. Mental health shows no mercy when it chooses to strike and the statistics of 1 in 4 there is a good chance that one of us may be struck with mental ill health.