In the chaos of everyday life, it's incredibly easy to become clouded by our own struggles, wellbeing, thoughts and feelings. Mental health issues, although becoming more widely discussed without judgement or shame, can silently wreak havoc on the lives of countless individuals, who may come across happy and healthy. Mental Health Awareness week gives us the opportunity to share our experiences so that we can empower others to speak freely and feel the benefits of opening up to understand our minds. 

Here's a few facts to show just how prevalent these issues are amongst society. 

  • An estimated 1 in 6 adults have experienced a 'common mental disorder’.

  • Of these people, 62% are described as ‘Economically inactive’.

  • After the pandemic and cost of living crisis, the reports of ill mental health was over double.

  • 45% of people experiencing homelessness have been diagnosed with a mental health issue. This rises to 80% of people who are sleeping rough.

  • The most prevalent problems among homeless individuals are substance misuse (62.5%), mental health problems (53.7%) or a combination of the two (42.6%).

  • 45% of homeless people reported they are self-medicating with drugs or alcohol to help them cope with their mental health.

  • Common mental health conditions – such as depression, anxiety, and panic disorder – are over twice as high among homeless people, with psychosis up to 15 times as high.

As a social enterprise working under the homeless charity, Archer Project, we are persevering to bridge the gap between homeless people and support for mental wellbeing. Imagine navigating the labyrinth of homelessness whilst trying to cope with anxiety, depression, PTSD, isolation, or any other ailment on top of having no safe space or community. Today, I want to shine a spotlight on the profound connection between mental health and homelessness.

For most, homelessness is not just a matter of lacking shelter; it's a manifestation of societal issues and deep-rooted traumas. Everyday is an uphill battle, and stability continues crumbling. The journey into homelessness is often paved with a myriad of challenges, and mental health struggles frequently serve as both a catalyst and a consequence of this. The relentless cycle of uncertainty, the sense of isolation and the struggle to meet basic needs results in the absence of a stable support system. 

Society often turns a blind eye to those battling homelessness and mental illness, and with the strong link between the two, individuals struggling with both are marginalised. These vulnerable people are trapped in a seemingly inescapable web of poverty, mental illness, and societal divide.

At Printed by Us we want to raise awareness for the interconnection between mental health and homelessness, but also strive to be agents of change. We must continue to challenge the stigma surrounding mental illness to build a culture of compassion and understanding. One of the main reasons Printed by Us offers long-term support and empowerment is to grow both professional and personal development. Confidence and self esteem are heavily affected by homelessness, and we help improve this through supported work opportunities. By addressing the root causes of homelessness – one factor being mental health issues – we can pave the way for a brighter, more inclusive future. 

Through Archer Project and Archer Project Enterprises, our beneficiaries go through many steps. This starts with engagement, which is the crisis point where emergency needs are met. Over time, stability is introduced, including keeping a routine, attending weekly wellbeing activities such as pony therapy , or attending healthcare appointments. The last step of the programme at the Project is fulfilment, which then leads into our social enterprises. We aim to encourage people to lead more fulfilling lives, which can look different for everyone. A big part of this and maintaining stability, is paid employment. Our unique model gives our beneficiaries a chance to gain experience through working in our retail space, screen printing, commercial cleaning and hosting public events. This can then allow them to build on and develop many transferable skills which can be used for unsupported work opportunities in the future. Throughout this period, everyone has a dedicated support worker or peer mentor from Archer Project, so they can work on professional and personal development simultaneously. 

Most of us know that our personal and work lives are very intermingled, and it's of utmost importance to make sure we are thriving, happy and treated fairly in both. Some of our core values are co-production, self-empowerment and mental health awareness within our team, allowing us to try and meet everyone’s needs. 

Weekly and monthly meetings ensure communication and support, and establish what is working well and what we can improve upon. Helping homeless and vulnerable people to discover what they enjoy and growing confidence assists with a more fulfilling and meaningful life, alongside learning life skills most of us would take for granted, such as paying bills, how to apply for a flat, reading and writing, or cooking. From beginning to end, mental and physical health, which we know are interrelated, is the core focus. 

So, as we reflect on this year's Mental Health Awareness Week, we think of those who are not heard or helped. Amplifying their voices and working together will form a world where neither mental health or homelessness are barriers to dignity and advocacy. A future where every individual – regardless of their circumstances – has the opportunity to thrive.