Street collections are not known for being the most fun to do. For every person who stops about 100 walk passed you averting their eyes (a couple even walked into me). Whilst collecting money for Mind the mental health charity last Saturday a man walked past me carrying a duvet. When he saw us he shook his head and took a few steps back. He made a few noises and I honestly couldn’t tell if he was going to shout at us or not. He pointed at a collection tin and said, ‘You couldn’t have picked a better charity. They do so much for us.’ He emptied his pocket. There was a mint and £1.03. That was all he had. He ate the mint and put three pence in the collection tin, ‘I’m homeless, I need the pound.’ His squat had been evicted earlier that day. Three police cars and two fire engines had turned up to do it. Sure enough we met a few more people carting their possessions down the street, unsure of where they were going. A girl put 50p in my tin apologising that it was all she had as she was homeless. Another man had nothing to give but he stopped to shake our hands explaining that Mind meant a lot to him. These people had so little but they were willing to give what they had to help others dealing with the horror of mental health problems.
I can’t imagine what it is like to be truly homeless but I know at any time we are only a few unfortunate events away from finding ourselves in that position. In my first year out of university the only work I could find was unpaid and I had to live away from my parents to take it up. I was thrown out of my boyfriend’s house and spent a few weeks sleeping on the floors of kind friends. A happy and functional working life does not always go hand in hand with mental health problems. After a few very poorly months I am once again living on the kindness of my boyfriend as I have no money. If I didn’t have him I would be on couches again. Not only that mental illness and self harm including substance abuse go hand in hand. I know what it is like to rely on alcohol and pills to cope. I am lucky and have had support to make sure this hasn’t got out of hand.
Homeless people are over twice as likely to suffer from common mental health problems as the general population and are 4-15 times more likely to suffer with psychosis. Crisis say that, ‘In many instances mental health problems played a significant part in the circumstances which caused those persons to lose their accommodation. The mental health problem may then be exacerbated by the stresses associated with being homeless, which in turn will make it even harder for that person to achieve stability in their housing.’
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