The theme for this year’s World Mental Health Day, on Sunday 10th October, was mental health in an unequal world. With World Homeless Day also falling on the same date, local charities have partnered to highlight how the two issues overlap, and signpost people to the support available.
Oxfordshire’s homelessness problems epitomise the inequality in our county, and lack of access to affordable housing pushes too many people into crisis. At least 50% of people experiencing homelessness are diagnosed with a mental health condition, underlining that these two issues are inextricably linked.
Oxfordshire Homeless Movement (OHM) and Oxfordshire Mental Health Partnership (OMHP) are working together to support and care for people who are homeless and experiencing mental ill health in the county. To raise awareness of the work being done across the county, the partners are campaigning on social media, as well as organising a virtual workshop this week to highlight the issues for system partners and people who can influence local policy.
Here OHM and OMHP partners share just a few examples of the work happening to tackle inequalities and support people with their mental health in Oxfordshire.
Oxfordshire Homeless Movement (OHM)
OHM is a partnership of over 50 organisations working to ensure that nobody should have to sleep rough on the streets of Oxfordshire. Oxfordshire is a very unequal county and the huge pressure on genuinely affordable housing means that there are no quick solutions to solving the issues for people experiencing homelessness. Having nowhere to call home leads to an overwhelming sense of insecurity, and even if a person wasn’t suffering from mental health issues before they became homeless, they can quickly become anxious and afraid.
One OHM project is working with people with No Recourse to Public Funds (NRPF). There are up to 20 people in Oxfordshire who, because of their immigration status, have no access to any benefits and are not allowed to work. This effectively leaves them destitute and vulnerable to abuse and exploitation. OHM is working in partnership with three selected and specialist delivery partners (Aspire, Asylum Welcome and Connection Support) to house and support some of our most vulnerable neighbours and help them rebuild their lives. Currently, 13 clients are being supported, with nine housed. The partners are now working with frontline homelessness charity St Mungo’s to identify the next cohort to be accommodated when the last ‘Everyone In’ venue closes in November. Find out more
Oxford Health NHS Foundation Trust
We know that life experiences, and the personal and social challenges people face, can have a direct impact on people’s mental health. Some groups of people experience far poorer mental health than others, and this often reflects their experiences of social disadvantage.
Oxford Health’s mental health services work with a wide range of organisations to support people in all aspects of their life, including wraparound care and support for their health, education and work, housing, finances and physical fitness, among a host of elements which make up someone’s life. That’s why the work of OMHP, of which the trust is a part, is so vital to helping people in Oxfordshire thrive day to day and live their everyday lives with family, friends and their community. Find out more
Matters of inequality, discrimination and injustice are a huge cause of trauma, stress and long-term mental ill health. At Oxfordshire Mind, we believe that equity, diversity and inclusion are central to achieving good mental health and vital components in fulfilling our mission – we won’t give up until everyone has access to good mental health support.
As part of our work to address mental health in an unequal world, in December 2020 we challenged stereotypical notions on who can be a trustee, putting out an inclusive advert which was shared on Facebook and a diversity job board, leading to over 70 applications. We now have six new Board members who have exceptional skills and bring brilliant new voices and diversity to our leadership, helping to shape our future decision-making in ways that improve mental health support for everyone. Real progress is already being made and we’ve got plenty more we want to do. We are proud to be continuing our journey of learning and growth through conversations with colleagues, volunteers, service users and local communities. Find out more
At Response, we advocate for every individual to ensure that no-one falls through the gaps of an unequal system. We support Oxfordshire residents from the age of 4 upwards, with mild to complex mental health issues.
We provide additional support such as housing, home care, physical and day-to-day support, and therapy and emotional support. We ensure that our service users can focus entirely on their recovery. We understand that no recovery journey is the same, so we tailor our support to our service user’s needs on a case-by-case basis and provide a holistic approach to mental health recovery. Find out more
Connection Support often supports individuals like Robert, whose story highlights how their experiences as well as identity, race, sexuality and religion influence how we work alongside them. We listen and are compassionate to the person behind the diagnosis. Part of our role is to be an advocate for these individuals to ensure they are treated as equal, regardless of how they identify.
Robert identified as transgender and was unfortunately a victim of a significant and traumatic incident in shared accommodation which, of course, affected his mental health and was directly related to his gender identity. His support worker spent much of the sessions discussing inequalities and how these have a profound impact on someone’s mental health. Robert knew he was not alone, and we took time to get to know him and personalise his support. We worked closely with him to ensure a successful outcome of support. He was eventually housed in emergency accommodation and is now bidding on more permanent accommodation. Find out more
We can never do enough to combat inequality, but we do know that this mustn’t stop us doing as much as we can. Our strategy at Restore is to persevere with small initiatives which, when added together, can make a significant difference.
Examples of current small initiatives include the Ripple Effect Project, which is creating a wave of conversations about mental health in diverse communities through a targeted programme of free Mental Health First Aid training; and the Innovations Project, which is developing digital solutions to reach out further and wider, such as a digital recovery group and a LGBTQI+ forum. Recent world events are helping us to focus more clearly on the necessity to look inwards and be critical of ourselves, but in a constructive way. Whatever happens, we mustn’t, and won’t, take our foot off the accelerator. Find out more
Elmore Community Service
Elmore seeks to engage people who fall through the net of services. We work with people to ensure that they can get the right support at the right time.
“Empower & Enable” is a new podcast series for and by minoritised communities. Produced by Elmore Community Services and Oxford Against Cutting, it features conversations about mental health, domestic abuse and sexual violence support, and power and gender. Find out more