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MHA Week 2022 – Seeing the Whole Person – Interview with Simon who uses Norfolk Integrated Housing and Community Support Service on coping with homelessness and addiction

Posted on 13, May 2022

Within our Seeing the Whole Person theme for Mental Health Awareness Week 2022 we’re considering the way complex circumstances can develop for people where multiple issues can occur at the same time. When this happens it can have a big impact on people causing them mental distress but creating barriers to them being able to access support to help. We felt this theme would provide us with an opportunity to raise awareness and demonstrate the way our staff work alongside people in these kind of situations. We aim to ensure we always consider every aspect of an individual’s experience, including mental, physical and social factors as we work alongside the people who use our services to lead their own care and support.

*Simon uses our Norfolk Integrated Housing and Community Support Service (NIHCSS) which works with people to identify and make changes in a variety of areas of their lives in order to improve their wellbeing. Simon had had a difficult time with his family and after disagreements and struggling with his mental health ended up being homeless. In addition to this he was being prescribed medication to help manage his mental health but developed a problem with addiction to that after mismanaging his dosage. It was at this point he started using the NIHCSS service and Support Worker Paul Appleby started working alongside Simon with the aim of supporting him to achieve goals and to live as independently as possible in their local community. In this case Simon’s goals were to access a safe and appropriate place to live and to gain support to manage his addiction issues with the medication he’d been prescribed. Paul felt these issues were linked and that the first step of finding Simon appropriate accommodation would help with his addiction and so managed to find him a flat within the network of housing that NIHCSS have. Simon explained how this helped:

My past has been very chaotic and unstable. By moving to my flat with the NIHCSS I found stability with my housing situation, and my medication abuse has stopped with the support of my support worker Paul.

Something else that Paul looked to support Simon with was in dealing with other organisations that he needs to deal with as part of his care plan. That includes helping in speaking to local authority mental health teams and being an advocate for Simon or with the Department of Work and Pensions around benefits to help with anything that may not be clear and look to try and avoid those interactions causing any distress because of the relationship they have. On being supported with those interactions Simon commented:

NIHCSS have helped me with all agencies I have contact with. They explain any things that I’m unsure about which has helped me stabilise my life currently.

An important part of Together’s approach to working alongside people is service user leadership and valuing the lived experience of people who use our services. This is something Paul looked to do as they got to know each other and Simon described how after Paul had introduced the idea of attending group sessions to meet others with lived experience of mental distress he was able to consider if he thought this would be something he’d like to do. He described how the groups themselves and deciding with Paul to attend those had made him feel:

NIHCSS run several groups which I have begun to participate in and they are good because it gives me the social interaction I never had before. They listen to what I have to say and have made me feel like I have a voice and that I get heard, I am not used to those feelings.

Thank you to Simon for taking the time to take part in the interview.

*Name has been changed to provide anonymity to the participant