The Victorian Government is in the process of developing a 10-year mental health strategy with the aim of providing better services for people for people living with a mental illness. The plan is expected to have a focus on recovery, as well as support for family members of sufferers.
The link between mental health and homelessness is unfortunately very strong, and evidence shows that mental health problems are exacerbated by homelessness. Aside from being stressful due to the lack of stability, people experiencing homelessness generally don’t have the emotional support of family and friends that are crucial to good mental health. For this and many other reasons people with a mental illness who are homeless often experience homelessness for longer periods, and are at a higher risk of multiple periods of homelessness.
In 2012-13, mental health problems were the second most cited reason for seeking assistance from specialist homelessness services around Australia (just slightly behind financial problems). And due to the unpredictable nature of mental illness, it is possible that this figure is in reality even higher.
The affordable housing crisis is also contributing to problems for people living with a mental illness. Due to the surge in demand for public housing, many people with a mental illness are finding it difficult to secure suitable accommodation. Further, in many parts of the community there is still a stigma attached to mental illness which makes it even harder for people to secure housing, especially in the private rental market. Research also shows that people suffering from long-term health conditions such as mental illness are likely to experience multiple disadvantages such as low income and difficulty finding and maintaining employment.
Given the crucial role that housing plays in creating the basis for someone to address other problems such as mental health, CHP would like to see access to housing and support as a focus for the 10-year mental health strategy. The discussion paper can be viewed on the website. Submissions close at 5:00pm on Wednesday 16th September 2015.