Roman* is 24. He is being supported by homelessness charity Emmaus Oxford after mental health issues led to a series of events and ultimately the loss of his accommodation. For Mental Health Awareness Week, he shares his story:
“When I was younger I realised I had mental health issues. My life took a turn and I ended up being sectioned under the Mental Health Act. For quite a while my home was in supported living for people experiencing problems with mental health. Unfortunately this didn’t really help; I found the support there to be really lacking. They didn’t take the time to get to know me as a person and my problems worsened. I turned to alcohol and my depression went downhill fast. It all ended in me having a psychotic episode and I did something I wouldn’t normally have done, and found myself in prison. When I came out, I tried living with my Mum but there wasn’t really any space for me there; I had lost my place at the supported housing and was at risk of homelessness. That’s when I turned to Emmaus.
I called up the team at Emmaus Oxford, had an interview and they gave me a room really quickly. Just over two years later, and I really feel supported here. The staff have taken time to get to know me and my needs, and so can offer more personalised help. They work well with my doctors and make sure I always remember my appointments. If I need someone to talk to, I feel like someone is there to listen. Living in a community has been a challenge but ultimately has helped my anxieties as I’ve had to learn to adapt. The work routine here helps a lot with my mental health; I like to keep busy. My work involves me helping to run the Emmaus Oxford charity store; I’ve also had the opportunity to take driving lessons, French lessons and I’m re-taking some GCSEs.
I think the link between homelessness and mental health can work both ways. In my case, my mental health issues contributed to me ending up with nowhere to live. I think that sometimes does happen, when people aren’t given the right support. Equally I’ve spoken to people who have experienced sleeping rough, whose mental health problems were caused by this situation; when you have no home it is a very stressful thing and you can easily fall into depression.”
I’m really pleased to have found Emmaus. My mental health has improved a lot and I’m not sure what my life would be like today if I didn’t have their support.”
*Not his real name