Australia’s housing, homelessness and mental health systems are crisis-driven and not well integrated, meaning many struggle to access required support when needed, reveals new research.
The national study, Trajectories: the interplay between mental health and housing pathways, is one of the first to examine the relationship between the housing and mental health pathways of people with lived experience of mental ill-health.
Undertaken by Mind Australia in collaboration with AHURI the quantitative analysis highlights the impact mental health issues have on a person’s financial situation, and ultimately, directly impacting their housing stability.
“People who experienced severe psychological distress had an 89 per cent increased likelihood of financial hardship in the following year and a 96 per cent increased likelihood of financial hardship within two years,” the report said.
“People whose mental health deteriorated to the point where they experienced symptoms of anxiety and depression and who did not see a health specialist were 65 per cent more likely to face financial hardship, such as going hungry, having to sell possessions or not be able to pay housing costs.”
Highlighting potential points of “practical intervention” and areas for “system improvement”, the research identifies five housing trajectories people commonly experience as a result.
Housing as foundation for mental health recovery
“For people with ill mental health, appropriate housing is housing which allows for control of space,” report co-author Dr Sarah Pollock from Mind Australia said.
“It's in a safe neighbourhood close to family and friends; and has good access to public transport, services, and opportunities for work, volunteering or study.
“Our research finds that having access to safe, secure, affordable and appropriate housing is the foundation to recovering from mental ill health,” Pollock said.
The research found that housing outcomes for people experiencing mental health issues showed that mediating factors, such as social support, having good general health, and accessing mental health and other health services, can reduce the likelihood of housing instability.
“Stable social support reduced the likelihood of deteriorating mental health to the point where a person experienced symptoms of anxiety and depression by 33 per cent, reducing the length of time a person was unwell by 6 per cent,” the report said.