Today we launch our new peer-led research – ‘Knowing where to turn’: access to mental health support whilst experiencing homelessness. This research highlights the significant barriers facing people experiencing homelessness when trying to access mental health support.
Peer-led research is central to our #HealthNow campaign, which works in partnership with Crisis and Shelter to tackle homeless health inequalities. Our #HealthNow peers, who all have experience of homelessness, identified mental health as a priority arising from our regional #HealthNow inequality reports. These highlighted that experience of mental health support was poor in each area the inequality report assess, and the peers were adamant that new research needed to:
- Better understand the barriers to accessing mental health support for people experiencing homelessness
- Find out directly from people experiencing homelessness and mental ill health what they would like to see from mental health services
The research draws on 80 interviews carried out by Peer Researchers from Crisis Newcastle, Crisis Birmingham and Shelter Greater Manchester, in partnership with Groundswell. We worked together to analyse the data, interpret findings and devise key actions where change is needed.
You can view our full report or summary report which outlines our detailed findings and recommendations.
During the research we found that:
- People experiencing homelessness face additional stigma concerning mental ill health, which can lead to shame and embarrassment.
- Stigma can be perpetuated by interactions with healthcare professionals if people feel judged when they reach out for help.
- Many people cannot prioritise their mental ill health when they urgently need to find accommodation. Lack of suitable accommodation worsens mental health issues, while simultaneously making it harder for people to focus on accessing mental health support.
- People don’t always trust mental health professionals, especially if they don’t feel listened to.
- Many people experiencing homelessness do not know where to go when they need mental health support.
- For some, despite ongoing mental ill health, a mental health crisis was the first time they were able to receive support. Support is often only available when a person’s mental health had significantly deteriorated.
- Transitions between different services and localities often meant people had to re-refer themselves or begin the process of accessing help entirely.
To tackle these problems, we recommend:
- Ensure everyone can access a safe, suitable and secure home – The UK Government and Local Authorities must ensure everyone can access a safe, suitable and secure home, with the income and support they need to maintain their tenancy.
- Address the stigma of mental health issues and homelessness – Healthcare services and commissioners must address stigma through training and support for staff and by incentivising person-centred working.
- Prioritise peer involvement in the design and delivery of mental health services – Peer involvement must be prioritised in work by Government, Integrated Care Boards (ICBs) and local services when they plan, design and commission support.
- Remove barriers for people using drugs and alcohol – Commissioners and support services must remove barriers for people using drugs and alcohol while experiencing both homelessness and mental ill health.
- Ensure people experiencing homelessness can access support with their mental health – The UK Government, ICBs and local areas must all ensure that people experiencing homelessness can access support with their mental health, addressing critical shortages in support and ensuring local systems and pathways work together smoothly.
There is significant work to be done to tackle the inequalities faced by people experiencing both homelessness and mental ill health – the launch of these research findings and recommendations are just the beginning. Soon we’ll be launching a peer-led campaign aiming to tackle the stigma surrounding homelessness and mental ill health, to ensure that everyone can access the support they need.
Make sure you hear about the campaign when it launches early next year by signing up to the #HealthNow newsletter.
View our leaflet in partnership with Mind which provides information for people experiencing homelessness when dealing with mental ill health. Content was informed by this research and suggestions from peers with experience of homelessness.