One of the biggest stumbling blocks to recovery for people with mental health issues is secure housing and employment. Successfully navigating these is a key step towards becoming independent. As an NHS Trust, Southern Health's core role is providing mental health care, but it's recently gone further - introducing housing and employment programmes for patients receiving treatment. The aim is to lead the way in NHS mental health care in reducing the social divide - providing sustainable long-term social support for people struggling with their mental health who may not have the support networks that many of us take for granted.
Jon Pritchard, Associate Director of Housing and Community Inclusion at Southern Health, has been key in introducing the housing project.
“Imagine receiving treatment for a mental breakdown but then, when you're ready to leave hospital, having no one to help you with your recovery, no home to return to, no job held open for you. These are the daily struggles that some of our patients face and we want to give them the best chance of recovery by supporting them with the key aspects of their lives to ensure they can stay as well as possible. One of the ways we are supporting our patients is through a housing project called ‘Step Out’ which helps people find accommodation in their local communities before they leave our services.”
The Step out project has been operating for around a year and has received some fantastic feedback from patients: “I have come on leaps and bounds from where I was a year ago and having my own flat has played a part in that. My flat feels secure and it's so nice to have my own home; it gives me a sense of wellbeing and being in control”
Jon added; “By discharging people, into safe, secure, and sustainable homes, we provide them with the first steps to independence. With some of our people, we’ve found that having the stability of a home has completely removed dependency on emergency departments for mental health support and also prevented inpatient stays completely.”
In fact, all of the patients involved in the scheme significantly reduced the amount they accessed crisis support in the last six months, with no one formally admitted to an inpatient bed.
Housing is just one part of the package in helping people with their recovery. Southern Health are also actively supporting people with job opportunities via their Individual Placement Support Service (IPS service).
“Having a job can lead to a significant reduction in mental health symptoms, fewer hospital admissions, and a reliance on using mental health services. The more we can help our patients become part of their communities by accessing paid employment and the housing programmes on offer, the more they are able to thrive in their recovery.” Commented Emma Dalwood, Southern Health’s Individual Placement and Support Team Manager.
Lacey Faulds, who recently benefited from the IPS service during her recovery, explained: “I was referred to the IPS team after being discharged from the perinatal mental health team. I had just started a small Facebook group where I was selling my homemade soap. Supported by my Employment Specialist, I decided that I wanted to combine my business with peer support and so I attended self-employment and peer support courses. In a matter of three months, my business exploded - I went from making a few hundred a month to quickly making over a thousand!”
Lacey continued: “I regularly share my story with the aim that it will help me to normalise post-natal mental health and challenge the stigma around post-natal depression and psychosis. I owe the successful expansion of my business to my Employment Specialist. Without her support, this would not have been possible.”