Wednesday 10th October is World Mental Health Day and World Homelessness Day, so today it seems only fitting that we recognise the correlation between the two.
Living on the Isle of Man, an economically stable, tax efficient jurisdiction, it’s very easy to brush aside problems that are more prevalent on mainland UK. It’s true that unlike densely populated areas such as London and Manchester, street sleeping on the Isle of Man is virtually non-existent, but this doesn’t mean that homelessness on the island doesn’t exist; there are scattered pockets of poverty and privation across the island.
Growing numbers are living in poverty (think sofa surfing and using the services of food banks) with no fixed address, and for an island of our stature why isn’t more being done to tackle these issues? The fact that we even need a food bank on the island is frustrating and infuriating, and it seems that in order to dismantle homelessness and poverty we need to start addressing prevention rather than allocating funds to treatment and enabling the issue to progress.
Whether a catalyst for or a product of homelessness, mental health is a huge issue affecting the island’s homeless population. Michael Manning, Coordinator of Graih, a homeless charity based on the island, said:
“’Mental ill health is endemic among those that Graih serve. We try to help those who are homeless and in insecure accommodation.
“Mental ill health is, in our experience, both a contributing cause and a result of homelessness. In our pioneering Homeless Health Needs Audit in 2015, the first of its kind on the island, we found that 94% of homeless people had a diagnosed or undiagnosed mental health problem.
Our call is for greater investment into community mental health services and more forms of supported accommodation for the most vulnerable.”
Yet mental health shouldn’t be the sole responsibility of the health sector. To truly make a difference to those with mental health issues and improve the stigma associated with mental health there needs to be some form of collaboration across all departments, from education to housing, and whilst the topics of mental health, poverty and homelessness are gaining public traction, there is still a huge conversation that needs to be had to eradicate the problems.
Later this week the island plays host to Lord Bird, a social entrepreneur and life peer who co-founded The Big Issue, whose early life was fraught with homelessness and crime. As part of his visit, Lord Bird will meet the island’s Poverty Committee and visit the Isle of Man prison to discuss his achievements since leaving prison himself, the merits of education and to answer questions regarding his work on poverty.
Gef will be in attendance of Lord Bird’s prison visit and we’ll aim to provide more general rumination about Lord Bird’s statements of the vicissitudes and uncertain turning of life.