Mental health issues high among homeless Scots in London

Borderline client Billy

Borderline client Billy

More than half of Scottish people who are homeless in London have mental health issues, the homelessness charity Borderline has reported.

In the past year, Borderline’s Scottish Outreach Worker project found that 54% of clients were recorded as having a mental health support need, which is higher than for the general rough sleeper population in London.

Mental health issues can be a major factor in making someone homeless, and they affect the ability to sustain a tenancy.

Borderline’s CEO Shona Fleming said: “Most of those suffering will be doing so in silence, not getting the help they so desperately need. The stigma attached to mental health conditions, with the stereotypes and misconceptions, can hold back those that Borderline supports.”

Now a Borderline client, Billy grew up in Edinburgh. As a teenager, he suffered a major trauma.

Bill said: “When I was 13-14 years old I got raped and molested by a friend of the family, and that continued for about two years.”

In and out of homelessness for many years, Billy eventually married and adopted a daughter. But flashbacks and panic attacks drove him back onto the streets.

Borderline offers a client-centred approach providing access to specialist mental health services, such as the Camden Psychotherapy Unit. After a consultation, clients may be offered regular psychotherapy sessions that can deal with a variety of emotional difficulties, such as relationship problems, depression, social isolation, eating disorders, anxiety, or panic attacks.

In 2014, with support from Borderline’s Scottish Outreach Worker, Billy got off the streets and eventually into accommodation. Borderline arranged for him to attend the Camden Psychotherapy Unit.

Bill added: “That’s helping me a hell of a lot. It’s making me feel better in myself. I’m not in a little shell anymore. It’s a big world out there, and there is no point being the way I am at the moment. I know that, and hopefully the therapy is going to help me get there. And I feel it is.”

The Borderline Outreach outcomes report also shows that 59% of the assessed clients have been in prison and 22% reported that they had previously been in care.