Poor social housing exacerbating pre-existing mental health problems of tenants

Unsuitable accommodation is exacerbating the conditions of social housing tenants with pre-existing mental health problems, according to new research.

Mental health charity Mind found that the difficulties those with mental illnesses face navigating the social housing system are hindering their recovery or worsening their conditions.

The charity surveyed 2,009 people across different housing sectors – 1,762 of whom had diagnosed mental health problems.

Of those surveyed with mental health problems, 668 were living in social housing.

The research found that 33% of people with mental health problems in social housing were dissatisfied with where they live.

It further revealed that 43% of people with mental health problems living in social housing have seen their mental health deteriorate as a result of where they live.

Other pressures putting a strain on respondents’ mental health included difficulties navigating the housing benefit system or accessing universal credit, stigma from housing officers and stigma from neighbours or flatmates.

Mind wants to see a greater focus on mental health within social housing policy.

Sophie Corlett, director of external relations at the charity, said: “Given how many people living in social housing are experiencing mental health problems, it’s shocking to see how little attention is given to mental health and housing.

“At the moment, barely any data is collected on the mental health needs of tenants by local authorities.”

She added: “The Government needs to start collecting data on the housing picture for tenants with mental health problems if it’s serious about properly meeting its ambition for improving support for people with mental health problems.

“We’d also like to see more training for those working for social housing providers to ensure they are well equipped to support tenants who have mental health problems.”

A Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government spokesman said: “We are determined to tackle the stigma all social housing residents face, including those with mental health problems.

“Our social housing green paper is an opportunity for major reform to improve fairness, quality and safety for all residents in social housing. This includes encouraging social landlords to do more to help meet the expectations and requirements of people.”

Mind cited the case of Nadia, 54, of Hackney in north London, who ended up living in a studio flat with her 17-year-old son after her business folded.

She said: “My son and I both have severe mental health problems, worsened by our current housing situation.

“City, Hackney and Waltham Forest Mind has been great in offering me advice and support but the council haven’t been much help.

“We’ve been in temporary accommodation for 10 months now.

“We’re on a waiting list for somewhere more suitable but even the waiting is causing a great deal of anxiety.”

Kathy, 47, a self-employed illustrator from Merseyside, said her depression and panic attacks worsened due to anti-social behaviour from her neighbours – including being threatened with a gun.

She said: “It’s now a vicious cycle – the more unwell and stressed I get, the less I am able to work, the less money I’m earning, and this feeds into my stress and poor mental health.”

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