News • 05 Aug 2019

The Connection Between Homelessness and Mental Health

With National Homelessness Week 2019 (4th – 10th August) upon us, we have taken a look at the connection between mental illness and homelessness. Living with mental illness can cause an increased risk of homelessness, and living without a home can increase the risk of mental illness.

People with mental illness are more at risk of homelessness, due to increased vulnerability, difficulty sustaining employment, and withdrawing from friends and family. 

The stress that comes with homelessness also in turn increases the risk of mental illness. 

Living without a home can increase fear, anxiety, depression, sleeplessness and can lead to substance abuse as a coping mechanism. 

Having a secure home allows people with mental illness to focus on recovery and treatment.

According to the National Mental health Commission: housing, homelessness and mental health are all connected. 

In 2018, the Commission collaborated with the Australian Housing and Urban Research Institute (AHURI) to release a report that demonstrated that having a secure home allows people with mental illness to focus on treatment and rehabilitation.

It also identified that there is a lack of secure affordable housing for people living with mental illness.

The report stated that an example of a successful initiative that has good outcomes for people needing a home, is the New South Wales HASI (Housing and Accommodation Support Initiative) – a program that Open Minds is proud to run from our Lismore, Grafton and Tweed Heads offices.

Frank Quinlan, CEO of Mental Health Australia, said: “Poor housing and housing stress, together with other life stresses, reduces psychological wellbeing and exacerbates mental illness.

“Safe, stable and secure accommodation is vital to the mental health and wellbeing of people and families living with mental illness.

“We know that for many people who are living with mental illness, owning and keeping their home can be harder to achieve compared to the general community.”

Statistics show that up to 20% of the general Australian population live with a mental illness.

A study cited by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) found that 31% of homeless people experienced a mental health problem. Of these, about half had a mental health problem before they became homeless, and the remainder developed mental health problems following homelessness.

Sharon Bennett, Open Minds Care Leader based in Redcliffe, recently attended the Reconnect event, The Moreton Bay Housing and Homelessness Network’s annual Homelessness Week event.

Sharon said: “When people are homeless and have mental illness, they often require so much more than a home to help them get back on track. There are so many services out there to help people who are in this position, such as support with drug and alcohol addiction, gambling addiction, health and food services, and more. It’s so important that we as service providers work together to get the best support for these people.” 

Success stories

Open Minds specialises in supporting people with mental illness and has supported numerous people from homelessness to find and sustain suitable accommodation:

Alison’s story – Alison is from Redcliffe and was homeless for a year before Open Minds supported her in transitional housing.

Margaret’s story – Margaret is from Lismore and lost everything – including her home – in the 2017 Lismore floods. After a period of homelessness, Margaret is now back on her feet with the support of the Open Minds HASI team.

Kirsty’s story – A 26-year-old based in Townsville received emergency assistance from the Open Minds Community Re-Entry Services Team (CREST) to prevent her and young son from becoming homeless.

John’s story – “If it wasn’t for [the Open Minds program] CREST, I would be couch surfing from house to house or back in prison.

If you want to speak to us to discuss our services, please get in touch with us today. 

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