A formerly homeless man from Hinckley is using Mental Health Awareness Week (10 – 16 May) to explain how getting outdoors and active can improve mental wellbeing.

Kris is now turning his life around after losing his job and becoming homeless 10 years ago. He is currently supported by our homelessness charity Emmaus Leicestershire & Rutland, living and working alongside other people we support (known as companions).

Kris struggled with his mental health as a child, but as an adult he found it harder to cope:

“I’ve always battled with mental health problems but growing up in the 80s meant that people didn’t really recognise it. Talking about mental health was taboo. As I got older, I was given medication to help, but that only masked the problem.

Getting the help he needed

“Looking back at the time when I was living on the streets, it definitely scarred me for life; the stress made my mental health problems so much worse. It’s only now, thanks to Emmaus, that I’ve been officially diagnosed with psychosis and I’m getting the support I need to try and come to terms with it all.”

Emmaus Leicestershire & Rutland offers people who have experienced homelessness a safe home for as long as they need it, alongside day-to-day support, funded training, and the opportunity to gain new skills and work experience.

Homelessness can have a major impact on a person’s mental health, often causing new conditions or exacerbating existing ones. During the recent Covid-19 lockdowns, Kris found that getting active outdoors improved his mental wellbeing:

“Getting fresh air during my daily walks cleared my mind and helped me relax. Even the cold weather didn’t put me off; sometimes you’d see me heading out wearing shorts when it was snowing! Being out in nature just made me feel more alive.”

Our Emmaus support team has now arranged specialist ‘walk and talk’ counselling for Kris, which takes place outdoors: “Thanks to Emmaus, I’ve got a place to live and I’m getting the help I need. The staff here have really taken the time to listen and work with me; it feels like we’ve figured out the best way to improve my mental health going forward.”

Kris’s London Marathon challenge

We’re proud that Kris is now in training for the London Marathon, which takes place on 3 October 2021. He will be raising money for Emmaus Leicestershire & Rutland, to give back to the charity that has helped him so much.  If you’d like to sponsor Kris in the London Marathon, you can donate online at https://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/kriswookey

Many thanks for your support.