Mental Health Awareness Week 2024 – Michael’s story on benefit of secure housing & support communities

Starting our coverage for Mental Health Awareness Week 2024 and our theme of community we're delighted to share Michael's story who uses our NIHCSS Specialist Housing Related Support Service in Norfolk. Michael shares open and unguarded lived experience on struggling with drug addiction which led to him serving time in prison and describes being released and the need to distance himself from his previous environment and how the service helped with that.

Mental Health Awareness Week 2024 – Michael’s story on benefit of secure housing & support communities

On his release Michael was offered an option for accommodation in Peterborough where he had been based previously but he didn’t want to take that up because of the links he had in that area to previous behaviours that had contributed to his addiction and sentence. That meant he spent nights on the street rather than returning take up housing in an area that represented previous bad habits for him. It was then he was connected with Julie Bowyer who is a Housing Support Worker at Norfolk Integrated Housing and Community Support Service (NIHCSS) who secured him alternative housing and started working alongside him.

In this first part of the video interview Michael explains how he came to use the service and how he came to struggle with addiction to heroin also sharing lived experience of anxiety and epilepsy and how using drugs was a coping mechanism and learning to deal without those now:

In the second part of the interview Michael talks about finding community through support in groups and services. Initially that was through Narcotics Anonymous in prison and he explains he’d been sceptical of that before but built up camaraderie with other people with shared experiences. Michael also talks about support in the community where he lives now such as the Steam House Café that he can attend and explains how more general informal mental health groups have been something that haven’t felt the most suitable for him yet although he is going to try more of them:

For the final part of the interview Michael gives more detail on the services in the community he has accessed and how those have been for him. That includes being able to talk about his mental health with others one on one and in group sessions as well hot meals at discounted rates and being able to get hot showers when he was homeless. He also reflects on the importance of these services as he adjusts to living in a new community and how without them it would have increased the likelihood of him reoffending and ending up back in prison:

Together would like to say a big thank you to Michael for sharing his lived experience in such an honest way and hope others will benefit from the insights he has shared. His story shows the importance of key elements like housing to independence in a community and the value of being around others with shared experiences.