Christmas can be a particularly difficult time for those struggling with homelessness
There are many more people with nowhere to call home this Christmas than ever before. Whether they’ve lost their home because of a family breakdown, mental health, addiction or financial problems, Christmas is going to be a sombre time for many this year with no way to put food on the table.
Depression has kept many out of work and homeless for years and thousands more are in temporary accommodation, on couches or otherwise straddling the edge of the poverty line, uncertain of where they'll be next week. Many people who spend Christmas at a refuge or soup kitchen are simply lonely, and often elderly.
The volunteers who come to help by providing clothes and food, soon start to break down a lot of the preconceived notions that they had before about homelessness and poverty.
The daily lives of people experiencing homelessness are stressful, dangerous, traumatic, and often take a toll on their mental health.
People can go without many things but going without a safe and comfortable space to live can be catastrophic for their general well-being. Homelessness itself can trigger a mental illness or worsen an existing condition, without even considering other factors such as poverty, personal conflicts, death of a loved one, serious medical condition, social isolation and other personal issues.
The literature confirms that people experiencing homelessness tend to have poorer mental health and have a higher prevalence of mental illnesses than the general population. However, it’s important to note that not all homeless people have or will ever develop a mental health condition.
Rates of depression are alarmingly high among the homeless youth population. Considering the social factors that impact mental health, this population is clearly a population at higher risk. Negative impact on mental health often begins well before a young person becomes homeless. Unhealthy family relationships, family breakdown, poverty, physical, emotional and sexual abuse, histories of domestic violence and neglect are known factors that impact our street youth.Homelessness is often stressful and can lead to depression and thoughts of suicide. Not all individuals with depression will commit suicide, however too many of those who die from suicide suffered from depression. Organisations like Wesley LifeForce suicide prevention services and Lifeline have experienced counsellors who can help.
A number of studies have reported higher rates of suicidal behaviour among homeless youth in comparison to youth who are not homeless.
If you are homeless or a risk of becoming homeless contact Wesley Mission Homeless Services to find a place to stay, or help you keep your home. Having a safe place to call home gives people the opportunity to progress towards independent living with dignity, privacy, security and self-worth.