Mental/Emotional Safety

A home should provide various types of safety

Mental health and homelessness are strongly associated. In 2015–16, 31 % (72,364 persons) of Specialist Homelessness Services (SHS) consumers aged 10 years and over had a current mental health issue. This is significantly higher than the rate of mental illness among the general population (16.2%).

Contrary to a widely held belief that most homeless people have mental health issues and that mental illness is a primary cause of homelessness, the evidence shows that while a mental health episode can plunge someone into homelessness, the isolation and trauma often associated with rough sleeping can also precipitate mental illness.

39% of people sleeping rough reported that they have gone to accident and emergency (A&E) because they were not feeling emotionally well or because of their nerves, compared to 35.3% of those not sleeping rough.

Homelessness may act as a trigger for mental health issues and vice versa, persons with lived experience of mental ill health are more vulnerable to common risk factors for homelessness, such as domestic and family violence, alcohol and other drug addiction, and unemployment.

Having a good night’s sleep is an unlikely occurrence for the 9,005 West Australians experiencing homelessness.

People who sleep poorly are much more likely to develop significant mental illness, including depression and anxiety, than those who sleep well.

Housing quality positively affects mental functioning, mental health care costs, wellbeing and residential stability.

In 2016–17, an estimated 77,600 people who sought Specialised Homelessness services reported a current mental health issue, of whom 18% were Indigenous, 60% were female, and 45% were aged between 25 and 44.

The relationship between housing quality and mental health is significant, with tenants with lived experience of mental illness having been shown to benefit from quality housing through reduced mental health care costs, and greater wellbeing and residential stability.

In the UK, two studies showed that improvements to study participants’ housing quality led to improved mental health functioning over time compared to participants living in housing that remained the same quality.