People with poor mental health are more susceptible to three factors that can lead to homelessness: poverty, lack of support system and impaired judgement. In turn, homelessness worsens mental health. It is draining physically and mentally to have no routine, high stress and exposure to the elements. People with mental illness also experience homelessness for longer periods of time.
People with mental illnesses often have trouble retaining work with a steady income or are simply incapable of working. In these instances it is vital that they be supported by a community or loved ones. Often times people are one paycheck away from homelessness and this is even more true for people with mental illness than the general population.
Lack of support system
Mental illnesses may prevent people from forming and maintaining stable relationships. Relationships and community are often the only thing between someone with a mental illness and a life on the street. They often push away caregivers/family and friends that are the people providing them with routine and making sure they receive their medication, eat regularly and live a fulfilled life. Serious mental illnesses disrupt people’s ability to carry out essential aspects of daily life, such as self care and household management and often need someone guiding them through these routines.
Mental illnesses can cause impaired judgement making daily life harder. It often is also mixed with substance abuse. Many people try self-medicating and end up in vicious cycles of alcoholism. This combination of mental illness, substance abuse and poor physical health makes it very difficult for people to hold down jobs and pull themselves out of homelessness themselves.
Even if housing is provided for people with mental illnesses it won’t change the cycle they are in unless they receive regular treatment and continued guidance. Homelessness is not, and should not be, the default for people with mental illness.
Crystal has been coming to AFTS Open Studio for more than 5 years and tries to attend once a week “so that I feel like I’m doing something - life’s not just passing me by. I have something to look forward to.”
“Life can draw you away from your real talent, and AFTS helped me rediscover an old talent. [AFTS] gave me the opportunity to rekindle that talent.”
During these times of lock down, social distancing and increasingly less human connection, we are determined to bring our artists and others experiencing homelessness an opportunity for self-expression and creative relief to combat the increasing risk of depression and isolation.