Homeless study finds serious mental health problems
Labour Party TD and Minister of State for Equality and Mental Health, Kathleen Lynch, has promised over €100 million in investment for mental health services over three years.
The news comes as it emerged this week that over half (52 per cent) of women surveyed in a week long health snapshot study aimed at determining the health and related needs of homeless people in Cork, suffered from a mental health condition.
Good Shepherd Services and Cork Simon Community jointly compiled the report, which found that Good Shepherd Services supported 91 women with Cork Simon supporting 24 for the week-long duration of the study.
The health and related needs of 115 women were surveyed, and 52 per cent had a diagnosed mental health condition, while the average international level is 25 per cent. Depression was by far the most common diagnosed mental health condition followed by bipolar disorder and panic attacks.
Speaking to the Cork Independent, Minister Lynch said the findings confirm what is common knowledge and promised investment to address this. “It proves that with this cohort of people, the effects of homelessness had a great impact on their mental health. It confirms all the previous thought on the effect of homelessness on people. We should be looking at broadening the mental health services on offer.
“The Government has promised to ring fence €35 million a year over the next three years for A Vision for Change, (which promised to modernise mental health services in Ireland, including establishing 99 community teams across Ireland). We are hoping to roll this out early next year.
“I am looking at putting posts in the community to deliver this service. If someone presents to their GP with a mental health issue, the doctor can only prescribe them medication or admit them to an acute unit. There needs to be a person in the middle and this is what we will be working on,” she said.
The report also highlighted the fact that heroin is the most commonly used drug among homeless women, while 74 per cent of women that use drugs, use a combination of two or more drugs.
This week is Simon Week, with a number of initiatives taking place to raise awareness of homelessness and remind people of how they can help those who have nowhere to live. Labour Party TD, Ciarán Lynch this week launched the Simon Communities National Conference on Homelessness and Health.
“People sleeping rough on our streets is just the visible and more extreme side of homelessness. Aside from the awful situation of not having a roof over their heads, sleeping rough on the streets or living in emergency accommodation, homelessness has more insidious and wide-ranging impacts on people’s health, whether it is their physical health or their mental health due to the lack of safety, lack of belonging and lack of privacy. Research has shown that once a person becomes homeless, their physical and mental health deteriorates rapidly.”
In Cork this week, a delegation of up to ten residents of Cork Simon Community, accompanied by staff and volunteers, met with elected representatives of Cork City Council.
Opening the meeting, Cork Simon’s CEO, Dermot Kavanagh said: “It is a celebration of democracy and participation in action in such an historic council chamber.”
Deputy Lord Mayor Cllr Toy Fitzgerald, who chaired the meeting, was joined by Cllrs Jim Corr and Catherine Clancy.
Many of the Cork Simon residents relayed their personal experiences of inappropriate housing, rogue landlords, substandard housing and red tape surrounding the Rental Accommodation Scheme (RAS). Particular concern was raised around the availability of suitable housing for single or separated men.
Cllr Fitzgerald said: “There are huge challenges but our job is to fix it and make sure the system is as flexible as possible. Members of the Simon Community are just as important, just as welcome and just as much a part of the city as every citizen of Cork.”