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How Homelessness Affects Mental Health

how homelessness affects mental health, sloth speed recovery, www.slothspeedrecovery.wordpress.com

Homelessness is a worldwide epidemic where thousands upon thousands of people don’t have a place to go, a bed to sleep in or a meal to eat. In Canada alone, 200 000 people experience homelessness every year, 150 000 access shelters and 30 000 Canadians are without a home every single night (source). It is a serious problem that needs to be addressed.

People discuss the topic of homelessness on a frequent basis, but the mental health of the homeless is often forgotten. Having experienced homelessness, shelter hopping and food-begging, one may find themselves completely isolated in this world and without a place to belong. These kinds of emotions often exude depression, anxiety and other serious mental health conditions. If the situation is severe, the individual may attempt suicide, with or without fail.

A large quantity of people who lose their homes develop mental illness, but some become homeless due to mental illness or their sexual identity, which is often seen in youth.

Being homeless or having a mental illness is a war on it’s own, but the combination is a whole other hell.

How does homelessness affect mental health?


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Constant Fear. Once homeless, there’s this constant fear that lingers. The majority of people residing in North America believe homelessness is the unthinkable if it has never happened in their family, and once they become homeless, it longer seems impossible. That separation between them and “the homeless” no longer exists as that line fades.

Homelessness is true fear; you don’t know what you’re going to eat (if you will), where you’re going to sleep (if you can find a bed) or who will be your neighbour. Everyday is a new unknown.

Shelters offer some safety in regards of keeping the homeless off the streets, out of the cold and away from nightly dangers, but they have dangers of their own. Youth shelters have more resources regarding counselors and mental health, along with available staff and smaller bedrooms. Whilst adult shelters can be one massive room, cluttered with beds side by side, and peoples’ things everywhere. It’s wonderful to have a bed to lay your head on but the fear of a fight breaking out can be too much. The in-shelter fears are what keeps some on the streets; unfed and in the cold.

They can get their own place but the fear will remain. Some days, they may not feel a differentiation between homelessness and them having a home in the fear of losing what they they worked so hard to gain.

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Lack of Self-Care. When someone has spent several months working a dead-end job, not spending a dime on themselves, they lose a healthy perspective on money. Money suddenly becomes something they need to hold on in case that “rainy day” comes again. Spoiling themselves no longer becomes an option because they don’t want to risk losing everything they worked so hard to get.

Do they really need that toothbrush? That sweater? How about that meal?

That obsessive need to keep every dime will decline their health, happiness and well-being as they no longer know when it’s okay to purchase food for themselves in case it’s “too much money”.

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Taking Any Employment. Having money and a job can be a desperate need, and thus, the individual will take any job that pops up. This can result in a decline of happiness if their work position is bringing them down or the coworkers they have do not respect them. They may have a poor paying job with excessive amounts of labour, but it won’t stop them.

They will let themselves be insulted and disrespected, all to get that apartment they so desperately need. They won’t get an option as to what they get to do because, they don’t exactly have a say if they want to get back on their feet.

This kind of environment will be the ultimate sacrifice of that person’s mental health as they lose sight of what they deserve, what is acceptable or unacceptable and how their voice matters.

There are a good number of people who cannot access employment due to mental illness or disabilities they may have, and do not have the help for, which leaves them trapped, unemployed and without money to feed themselves.

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Trouble Accessing Help. In youth shelters, there are more means of mental heath assistance, though not always plentiful or perfect. But, adult shelters aren’t always equipped with this, which leaves homeless adults without the proper care they need.

Luckily, in Canada, we are offered free Health Care, which covers some mental health services, but not all. Not to mention, all free mental health services have some form of wait list, which can leave someone in need of dire help in the back seat. If accessing a service is taking a lengthy period of time, there are drop-in counselling services hosted by different organisations that will help assess the issue and try to open doors to other services, if required.

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Influences. It would be naive to not acknowledge drugs and alcohol as those are behaviour changing substances that are taken for coping reasons, though it is important to remember that homelessness is not synonymous with drug addict or alcoholic.

When substances enter the picture, it can be hard to resist as drugs and alcohol are an accessible way of coping with this distressing time. They offer a form of escape that lets the one affected escape from their reality.

Using can affect someone’s cognitive ability, along with healthy decision making and a progressive outlook. If the individual isn’t careful, they could ingest a substance that causes a terrifying and dangerous psychosis phase that could be life threatening.

It’s important to talk about the matter instead of shunning every homeless person for the serious coping strategies of a few. We must encourage sobriety to encourage everyone to put their future’s first, and help get them into a safe and stable environment.


This is a serious problem occurring all around the world and we need hands to reach out and be of help to those who need it. Homeless, mentally ill, the combination of both… Try your best to be of help, to be understanding and not to shame either or.

If there’s something you can do, do it.

 

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Disability Income Misconceptions

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Welfare and Disability seem to be taboo terms. There is no way of bringing it up into conversation without a stigmatized comment being proclaimed. Someone always has something to say about their preconceived notions of these income support cheques. Whether they don’t understand the reasoning or they choose not to, it doesn’t mean their opinion is fact. They may not know someone personally who is deemed disabled by the government, but these misconceptions and myths need to be debunked.


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You’re lazy. The general public sees this form of income as a way of cheating society and laying around doing nothing, without taking into consideration the reason someone may need to rely on these programs. When it comes to disability, despite some of us not being employed, the majority of us are not trying to abuse the system or sit down and let the money roll in; we understand what we’ve been given in respect to our disability.

A disabled person does not find happiness or glee in being couch-bound for days on end. We do not feel pride in the need to have government support. We do not want to flaunt our inability to work; we just strive to survive as comfortably as we can and obtain the services we need to hopefully, one day, not be considered disabled (if possible).

There are days that we cannot get up or function, especially when mentally ill. We spend our days trying to get by; survival is our biggest feat. We are in constant pain and turmoil, but we have drive and ambition, like the rest of humanity. Many of us are creative and productive folk; trying to contribute in our personal methods.

If a constant battle with ourselves is translated into laziness, we are not the problem. Not to mention, nobody would want to trade a few shifts a week for daily torture and self-doubt.

If we could work, we would. We want to be able to function along with society, but we can’t, and we need help. And honestly, that’s okay. There’s help for a reason.

You don’t deserve it. If we didn’t deserve it, and there wasn’t a reason for us to receive this money, we wouldn’t have been accepted in the disability support programs. Obviously, there is someone out there in these companies that believes our problems are valid, and affect our ability to be employed. Your opinion regarding our personal lives and income is none of our business.

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You can’t work. This is ultimately false, and is a statement some of us on disability may also believe true. Depending on the program or where you live/receive your income from, we are able to work. In Ontario, Canada, Ontario Disability Support Program allows its clients to work as much as they please, with acceptable deductions. Up to 2oo$ will go untouched, the rest will be divided in half, and you will be awarded 100$ for working.

Being on disability or welfare does not mean you can’t work; it means you need support to survive, and may not be able to work as often or frequently as someone who does not have a physical or mental illness. That being said, some people on disability cannot work at all, whilst some may work a 40 hour work week.

Only the physically disabled should have access. It would not be incorrect to state that the majority of people who believe this may also believe that mental illness is made up and inherently false. Mental illness can affect you as dangerously as physical illness, and cannot be compared on the same wave length. A mental illness, such as depression or schizophrenia, can be deadly and drive someone to commit suicide, or cause psychotic symptoms that cause danger to the individual and others.

Physical disability is as valid as mental disability, and cannot be swept under the rug for its physical nonappearance to the naked eye.

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You’re abusing the government and tax payers. No. There are reasons why these programs were put into place; the public needs the service. The government wouldn’t implement such a program for people when they don’t need it, just to lose money.

Tax is divided in the regions that need it; health care, education, construction, companies, etc. Disability income support happens to be one of those sections. Your taxes are going in various places, and even if you don’t agree with where they go, it is for the government to decide. As long as they deem the service is needed, it will continue to be funded and available to those who need it.

You can trick the system. To think that you can abuse a system that has been developing over years is ridiculous. When we apply for disability, it is a lengthy process. They look into your assets, your living arrangements, your past employment and have access to any records they need. You cannot complete the application without signing that consent, and it can only be assumed that revoking consent would revoke your income.


Being on disability does not define someone or throw them into a category, and to believe someone is something based on how they survive is ignorance.

We cannot remove stigma or teach those who do not want to be taught, but we can continue to try and reduce stigma in the best ways we know.

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11 Ways to Maintain Employment with Mental Illness

11 ways to maintain employment with mental illness, www.slothspedrecovery.wordpress.com, sloth speed recovery, recovery

Balancing the world of employment with our never ending mental illness is a feat to conquer. Many of us have been fired or have had to quit because of our illness; whether we landed in hospital, had a suicide attempt, or just plain burned out. We have to apply techniques to keep our motors going and complete a hard days work.

It will never be easy, but it can be done when we apply these 10 simple techniques.


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Notes. Mental illness can take the better of us and sometimes, our memory goes with our health. To keep on top of our work, it is beneficial to take notes of all the important information or procedures you need to follow. On shift, bring the notebook with you to refer to it and take notes. Use colours, stickers, drawings or tabs; anything to have it appealing and stimulating for you.

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Honesty. Try to keep open communication with your employer. You don’t need to disclose your diagnosis or provide any information you aren’t comfortable with sharing, but you can state that you have medical issues with appointments. If you have scars and are comfortable with showing them, tell them in advance and proceed to wearing short sleeves. It will be important for your employer to be aware of your need for medical attention (whether you state mental or physical is your choice) and dates or appointments, as they can try to be understanding and accommodate accordingly.

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Allow Mistakes. We disservice ourselves by not allowing mistakes, and when we make them, we crash and burn. A mistake is not a portrayal of your character and it does not invalidate your capability as an employee or human being. You cannot beat yourself up over mistakes, because everybody makes them. They’re natural and are a part of the learning experience. Floors and counters can be cleaned, orders and items can be returned and people are understanding. Let them happen, and have fun with them.

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Consistent Therapy. Attending therapy consistently will help you regulate emotions and anxieties, especially around the job itself. It will be useful to have that third party available to brainstorm ways to improve your work environment and performance. Any troubles that may be weighing you down at work could also be alleviated through talking.

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Self-Care. It is important to put yourself first. Do you need a coffee or tea to calm down before work? Bring a mug. Are your feet sore? Take a warm bubble bath. Is your brain on overdrive? Watch a corny comedy. The smallest actions can keep you relaxed before work, and reward you after work. 

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Goals. Human beings are goal oriented creatures; we thrive on success. The smaller the goal, the quicker we achieve, the happier we will be. Set daily goals that are easy to achieve, like attaining hygiene, eating well, and arriving at work 10 minutes early. These goals, especially accomplished before a shift, can help the shift go smoother. It will boost confidence and production level.

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One Task At A Time. Mental illness can throw us in overdrive, hoping from one task to the next without thought. We forget our previous task and leave a mess for someone else to clean up. If you were working in a restaurant, for example, and you were cleaning tables as someone walked in; don’t drop the rag. Finish the task as it is a short one, tell the customer that you will be with them and possibly crack a joke to amuse them during the short wait. There are priorities in the workplace, but tasks that are short can come first. If you are doing inventory though, do not leave the customer waiting until you are done. Prioritize, and take it one step at a time.

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Work From Home. If the social aspect of the workplace is weighing you down, opt for working from home. There are many jobs available through online companies where do not need to interact with people face to face or through phone calls. You could try market research, customer service through emails or even freelance transcriptions.

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Self-Employment. Why not try to be your own boss and start up something new and exciting? Self-employment allows you to be in charge and open up a business for yourself, on your own terms. Photography, writing, art, business; the world is yours. The issue with self-employment is that it does take time and money before ever making a dollar; it is a slow process with no guarantees. It can start exciting, and end with you feeling drained and exhausted. The trick with self-employment is learning business, marketing, discipline and persistence. You will have to work another job until any income can be made.

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It’s Not The Be All, End All. Don’t depend your life success on this one job. It is likely that this will not be your last job, and that if you do get fired or need to quit, it wasn’t meant to be. It wasn’t the job or career choice for you. If you lose employment, try to get back up and start looking again. You are capable, you are valid for employment and you have value to a company out there.

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Recovery. The best way to maintain employment is to commit to recovery. Recovery will build up your confidence, help break bad coping habits and teach you self-understanding. It is an all around the clock job itself, but will be rewarding if you commit to it. You will inevitably see improvement in your workplace, yourself and your happiness.


Ultimately, your highest levels of success will come from doing a job you love, but if that isn’t an option, you have to stay persistent and take care of yourself.

Someone with mental illness can be successful in the workplace. You have to believe in yourself, build your confidence and focus on maintenance. Be the best that you can be.