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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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My Recovery Wake Up Call (Featuring S.K. Bosak from Borderline Mama)

sloth speed recovery borderline mama www.slothspeedrecovery.wordpress.com www.borderlinemama.wordpress.com my recovery wake up call

With the challenges of everyday life, it is easy to dismiss and forget about our inner troubles. Sometimes a life altering event is the kick we need to wake up to the reality of our illness. Mustering our own inner strengths and all of our courage, we may all see an end to the torment. We must be resilient, and brave. Only then, do we truly start our journey to recover from BPD.

Sloth Speed Recovery has partnered with S.K. Bosak from Borderline Mama to bring you our two incredible stories of self-discovery and journey into recovery.


S.K. Bosak:

I was diagnosed with BPD during my stay in rehab. As a result of all the medicine I had to take, I couldn’t really concentrate on anything and I didn’t feel like myself. I never thought about my diagnosis, but my doctor never went into detail about BPD either. So I just viewed the illness as the cause of my emotional pain and left it at that.

When I was discharged from rehab, I was a fragile mess. I wasn’t ready to go out and live my life, so my parents encouraged me to study from home while I had monthly therapy sessions. It was a lonely ordeal and I hated it. Within a year, I completely forgot about having BPD. My medication made me feel numb, so my therapy sessions weren’t really much help. But I wanted to get back on my feet so I could escape my isolation.

Things started to change when I came off my medication. I began to feel my emotions again. I was able to think more clearly, and remembered my diagnosis. I did a little research on BPD, and finally understood that the illness was why I couldn’t control my emotions and why I behaved the way I did. But I wasn’t ready to recover yet. As a result, my BPD symptoms flared up as I fought to be free from my loneliness.

When I met my SO, I left the country to go and live with him. My BPD symptoms were badly out of control, but I finally wanted to recover. I didn’t like how it made me behave around him. But ended up focusing on our relationship instead on recovery. It was only after I became pregnant, I started focusing on recovery. I didn’t want to be a bad mother.

After our daughter was born, I made a promise to her. I promised to fight my illness so I could be a wonderful mother. My daughter is my motivation to recover.

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Sloth Speed Recovery:

My wake up call was my own self destruction. Nothing was particularly done to me, but I was messing my life up.20160320_14585256861027

I was first homeless a month after my 16th birthday, wanting to get away from home after being physically violent with my family and having the police called on me several times. I was out of control and would use violence to express my inner torment, which turned my family against me. I was partnered with a company that would help me leave home when I turned 16.

I met a boy in the homeless shelter who took my world by storm. I laid my eyes on him and he swept me off my feet. Every interaction we had was lovely, comedic and romantic, until he really hurt me. Within one week of us officially being a couple, he cheated on me. I wanted to die; I wanted the pain to stop. I remember laying on the beach, hoping the waves would drag me in and I could drown. But I was stupid and continued my relationship with him.

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A few months passed and I found out he cheated AGAIN with a girl who was 4 years younger than him and with another girl who woke up, terrorized, to find his hand in her pants.

8 months passed. I had been living with him for 5 months, we had been scrapping pennies, and we did everything together. We were sexually involved with other couples and had rules around that. The night of June 30th, 2015, I went to my friend’s house after a week of suicidal thoughts and pill popping. We went to her boyfriend’s house, and I just wasn’t in my right mind. There had been sexual tension between the 3 of us, with my boyfriend refusing to have sex with them. My boyfriend at the time was with his friends and wouldn’t answer my calls about me feeling aroused and having desire to play with them. Stupidly, I engaged in some sexual activities with them and told him what happened. He was displeased with me, with reason.

Upon my return the next morning, he was furious, and though we led a deviant lifestyle, he had no right to hit me. I was slapped across the face, bringing me to the ground, and received a kick in the lungs. I stopped breathing and ran to the bathroom. (To be clear, I had had physical altercations with him. I did try to attack him once when I was drunk, and smacked him when he had a bottle of pills I was going to OD with).

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It was mid October. Our relationship was falling apart and I was utterly depressed, practically never leaving our bedroom and skipping at least one day a week of school. I was terrified about the result of breaking up with him, and in response, chose to down alcohol with sleeping pills during a Halloween party my roommates were hosting. I was ill with one of my roommates asking me what I did and he put me to bed. Upon my boyfriend’s arrival, my roommates harassed him about what I had done. I was unconscious. He came into the room, kissed me, and LEFT to go party. May I repeat that he LEFT his suicidal girlfriend in bed after an overdose mixed with alcohol. I was asleep for 14 hours that night, and though I’m lucky I woke up, it wasn’t for sure that I was going to.

He left me there, without care that our bed could’ve been my death bed.

About a week passed, and I told my school social worker about the time he hit me and she urged I leave him. That night, I came home and insisted we go one break. We discussed rules and he said he would remain faithful, but that I could see other people. Well, he ended up cheating on me again. I packed my things and left the day it happened.

I enrolled in the Out of Control program in my hospital for DBT and CBT, and was broken. I tried so hard to recover but I was destroyed.

Barely two months passed, placing us in December. I had just celebrated Christmas with my family, and an argument broke out. Well, apparently I shoved my mother and next thing I knew, I was homeless again.

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I moved to Toronto with the help of my current boyfriend into a youth shelter. I was in a city I didn’t know, with people I didn’t know, trying to get on my feet. I enrolled in a new school, started seeing a youth worker, had a school social worker, and worked at a restaurant. I was getting on my feet, but I was miserable and terrified.

I lived there for practically 4 months, witnessing fights with knives and fists, theft, had schizophrenic roommates, sexual harassment and STDs. I decided to patch things up with my mother, begging her to pick me up and take me back home. I needed my family back and I couldn’t live like that anymore.

My mom forced me to re-enroll in the Out Of Control Program, I chose to start working on my recovery and managing my emotions, I graduated high school, joined an employment program, started this blog and I’ve started my own secret project (coming soon!). I have not displayed violent behaviours since December, my self harm is farther and fewer in between, and I am in control of myself and my emotions.

I still have a ways to go with my recovery, but I’m almost there. Everyday is a battle and my BPD really gets to me sometimes, but I understand now how much talent and what capabilities I possess. Recovery is a lifetime lifestyle, and I’m going to get there. So can you.


What was or will be your wake up call?