Homelessness and men’s mental health
Homelessness and mental health are issues that intersect. Last year, 69% of clients who were assessed needed support for their mental health.
Having a friend or family member to speak to helps, but for men, stigmas around mental health can make it more challenging to open up.
That’s why our Bristol Floating Mental Health Support team have set up Men’s Group – an informal, weekly group where men can sit, chat and make friends.
Jamie, James and Simon share what the group’s been up to, and how we tackling the issue of homelessness and mental health.
Supporting men’s mental health
Jamie: Mental Health Floating Support Worker
“As a Mental Health Floating Support Worker, I support around 17 clients across Bristol.
Lots of the people I work with have lived lonely lives. Whilst there are women’s groups for clients who want to chat and share experiences, I couldn’t find anything similar for men.
“That’s why I decided to start a Men’s Group. I wanted to create an informal space where men could come and meet new people, chat, play games and listen to music – an escape from their daily stresses.
“At the time we were still in the middle of the pandemic, and couldn’t host groups inside. But it was summer, so we decided to go to the park, meet at the bandstand, and have a BBQ. And that’s where it all began!
“Our clients really enjoyed coming every week, and with summer coming to an end, we needed a sheltered space to meet. We didn’t have a big budget to work with, so the Putting Down Roots team offered to share their wonderful garden enclosure with us, and we’ve been meeting here ever since.
“I think the group’s been successful because we’re quite small, which makes it less intimidating, and easier for people to get to know each other. There’s no set format or pressure for people to talk about anything – they can just sit here and chill.
“Because a lot of the men who come to the group have shared similar experiences, they’ve actually become really supportive of each other, which is amazing. Someone might be going through a rough patch, and if someone else has had a similar experience in the past, then they can empathise. It’s a very non-judgmental group – we’re all here for each other.
“Last year, we’d planned to host a Christmas party inside, with a pool tournament and food, but unfortunately we had to cancel due to Covid. I’m hoping we can put on something similar this year.”
“I have something to look forward to”
Simon: St Mungo’s client
“I really needed something like this, you know, coming out of the pandemic. My mental health suffered, like loads of others. I live in a flat by myself and it was very isolating and lonely.
“I heard about the group through a member of Jamie’s team, so I thought I’d give it a go. I’ve been coming for over a month now and it’s been really good. I struggle with fatigue, so I’m proud that I’ve managed to keep coming.
As we get to know and trust each other, the conversation takes on a life of itself. It goes a bit deeper sometimes, but often it’s just light hearted.
“It’s the only thing I’ll leave my local area for, but it’s nice to get a change of scene and have something to look forward to.”
“It takes your mind off things”
James: St Mungo’s client
“After my brother died, I had a really tough year.
“St Mungo’s have helped me keep going with weekly bereavement counselling, and activities like the men’s group. I’m also taking part in English and Maths classes at their Recovery College.
I love meeting new people – and everyone here is really friendly. Having your own space to chat, have a laugh and play games takes your mind off things. I’m always recommending the group to others.
“In the past, I used drink and drugs, but St Mungo’s have helped me to gain a new outlook on life. To tell the truth, I don’t think I’d be here without them.”
Homelessness is a mental health issue
Fostering a sense of inclusion and belonging makes our clients feel supported, and helps them break out of homelessness.