This year Mental Health Awareness Week is focused on the issue of anxiety.
Anxiety is one of the most common mental health problems, and affects us all from time to time. Its causes vary, but particularly common reasons that people give for feeling anxious include work or educational pressure, relationships and money worries. It can also stem from difficult past experiences, and be triggered when reminders of these experiences come up.
With this in mind, it is not surprising that anxiety is very common among people who are, or have been, homeless. Many issues that lead to homelessness are also common triggers for anxiety, like financial difficulty and relationship breakdowns. People experiencing homelessness are also more likely to have experienced past traumas, sometimes dating back to childhood.
Furthermore, the dangerous and unpredictable experience of homelessness can itself cause anxiety. It also makes it more difficult to access clinical support. This means that people can find themselves in cycles of worsening mental health, whereby increasing anxiety makes it harder and harder to take the steps needed to stop it. We all know how it feels to be anxious: imagine having that feeling without anywhere safe to live, or anyone to approach for help.
This aspect of homelessness can sometimes be overlooked. By focusing on getting people off the streets and into accommodation, it is easy to miss that they may be dealing with acute anxiety at the same time.
“My family felt I had chosen to be homeless, which heightened my depression and anxiety. I felt like I was doing something wrong.”
Because of this, it is vital that homelessness support is delivered in a psychologically informed way that considers people’s mental wellbeing. There are many ways to do this, including:
“It took me a while to open up to anyone, even my support worker at the time. I was in a brand new place and my anxiety was really bad.”
To support everyone impacted by homelessness in a meaningful and sensitive way, we must understand how anxiety can affect people’s lives. It can shape behavior, impact quality of life and even be a barrier to positive action. However with the right approach it can be managed and addressed, enabling people to move on from homelessness for good.
If you would like more information about anxiety and why it is the focus of this year’s Mental Health Awareness Week, click here.