Tuesday 10 October 2017

Parallels between mental health & homelessness


This World Homeless Day and World Mental Health Day (10th October), Emmaus Gloucestershire is sharing stories of formerly homeless people to highlight the rapidly growing issue of homelessness and its parallels with mental health issues across the UK.

Emmaus Gloucestershire supports formerly homeless people (companions) by giving them a home, meaningful work in a social enterprise and an opportunity to regain lost self-esteem to help rebuild their lives.

Many of those who come to Emmaus Gloucestershire have had undiagnosed mental health issues such as depression or post-traumatic stress disorder that either led to homelessness, or became exacerbated following homelessness.

Companion Jamie came to Emmaus Gloucestershire in 2011 after many years of moving in and out of hostels and sleeping on the streets. His problems began when he was just 15 years old. Though he had a supportive, loving family; like so many young men and boys, he struggled with emotions and expressing what he was feeling. Undiagnosed depression led him to an unhealthy, self-medicating relationship with drink and drugs. His life became characterised by periods of stability where he would have a job, a relationship and he even completed the first year of a politics degree. However, each time things seemed to be going well, bouts of depression would knock him off balance and lead him back to homelessness.

He lost his family, his friends and, with no stable home, he had no consistent access to a GP to get the medical help and support he needed for his mental health.

World Homeless Day 2017During his six years at Emmaus Gloucestershire, Jamie has been rebuilding his life. He co-ordinates the customer collections and delivery schedule for each of the five Emmaus stores in Gloucestershire at Stroud, Gloucester, Cheltenham and two in Nailsworth. Jamie is looking forward to a positive future and is re-creating relationships with family and friends.

Emmaus Gloucestershire companion, Jamie, said: “there’s simply no other charity that does the work that Emmaus does. It’s given me the stability I need to deal with my mental health issues.”

According to the World Health Organisation, depression and anxiety disorders are common mental disorders that have an impact on our ability to work, and to work productively. Globally, more than 300 million people suffer from depression, the leading cause of disability. More than 260 million are living with anxiety disorders. Many of these people live with both.

According to the report published by Crisis this year, it is estimated that nearly 160,000 households are currently experiencing homelessness across Britain, with a predicted 76% rise within the next ten years.

Loss of income, or the ability to create income because of poor mental health, increases the risk of homelessness and there is little to no mental health provision for homeless people.

Emmaus Gloucestershire provide a home and meaningful work for 31 formerly homeless people. With homelessness set to rise again over the next year, the need for this is now more important than ever.

1235 companions have lived at Emmaus communities during the year.

If you have been inspired by Jamie’s story and want to help, contact Emmaus Gloucestershire to find out how you can get involved. It can be as simple as volunteering for as little as four hours a week, donating your unwanted furniture, old clothing or bric-a-brac, or picking up a bargain at an Emmaus shop. All the money Emmaus raises in its shops goes directly back into communities, enabling them to continue their vital work with homeless people across Gloucestershire, giving them a home, meaningful work and access to the health services they need.