How homelessness affects a woman's mental health, even after she has been rehoused 2 years ago

How homelessness affects a woman's mental health, even after she has been rehoused

mental health month

By Jessica Lee

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One quarter of homeless mothers still experience mental health problems even after they've been rehoused.

Issues like depression, anxiety and PTSD are commonly faced by women who are forced to leave their residences, often due to abusive relationships or violence in the home.

As of 2018 the number of homeless people in Ireland is at a record high.

According to Focus Ireland, there were 9,698 people homeless in the week of September 24 - 30, 2018. This statistic includes 3,755 children according to the latest figures from the Department of Housing from March.

Rebuilding Ireland was launched in 2016 by former Minister for Housing Simon Coveney. The plan was to end homelessness in Ireland and increase the amount of housing, particularly social housing, by 2021.

Despite this, the number of homeless families has increased by 21 percent since September 2017. These statistics often don’t include the ‘hidden homeless’ - people who temporarily live with friends and family but don’t have permanent accommodation.

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Homelessness plays a huge role when it comes to mental health. Having a permanent home provides people with a sense of security and stability, which is vital for good mental and physical health.

Homelessness makes developing a mental health condition increasingly likely and can also worsen a pre-existing mental health issue.

According to the Irish Medical Times, homeless people self-harm at a rate that is 22 times higher than that of the general population.

Consultant Psychiatrist Dr Justin Brophy said the high risk of self-harm put those who are homeless at “extraordinary risk of suicide."

This risk also extends to children experiencing homelessness too.

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Earlier this year, the Children’s Rights Alliance published their yearly report card and gave the government a C- grade in their handling of children’s rights, particularly in how they have dealt with the homelessness crisis.

This grade is up from a D+ grade given in 2017.

The Chief executive of the Children's Rights Alliance Tanya Ward said: "The impact of this is catastrophic on every level from children's health, education and development."

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There are clear developmental issues that can occur in children who are homeless. These include physical problems such as stunted growth, behavioural issues and asthma - as well as mental health issues.

According to a 2017 Focus Ireland study, there are almost 2,000 children whose education is being disrupted due to their living situation.

1,200 children attending primary schools, and 600 attending secondary schools across the country, are struggling to focus on their studies and find adequate places to do their homework.

These children are also facing bullying, a decline in concentration, and depression and anxiety due to homelessness.

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The mental health of homeless mothers is also at risk - when they are homeless as well as when they are rehoused.

One UK study stated that one quarter of rehoused mothers still experienced psychological problems, with two fifths of children also experiencing similar issues.

The most common reason these women become homeless is to escape violence, either by a partner or an ex partner.

Similarly the vast majority of women with mental health issues like depression have experienced violence in the home.

It's likely that statistics such as these will only increase the longer the government continues to procrastinate finding a meaningful and long-term solution to the crisis and the harsh realities Irish adults and children face daily.

If you have been affected by the issues raised in this article you can contact Samaritans on 116 123 or email jo@samaritans.ie


November is Mental Health Month on Her, where we'll be talking to you and the experts about some of the common - and the not so common - disorders and conditions affecting women in Ireland today. 

You can follow the rest of our Mental Health Month series here. 

Want to get in touch? Email me at Jade@her.ie.