Spotlight on our Programmes of Support – Mental Health Awareness Week 2016 #MHAW16

Helen Gore is Riverside's Head of Supported HousingBy: Helen Gore, Riverside’s Head of Supported Housing

Within our supported housing services we work with people who have become vulnerable or homeless due to a number of factors, and many of whom have enduring mental health difficulties. Homelessness is not about bricks and mortar, there are many reasons including trauma or abuse which can all lead to mental health conditions. It is estimated that up to 60% of homeless people have some sort of personality disorder, which is a huge proportion compared to the general population (Crisis).

Our services deliver Programme of Support modules covering a range of issues to give customers the skills and tools needed to improve their mental health. The toolkits are a series of modules that our support staff deliver in group sessions. We do it this way as social connectedness helps to improve mental wellbeing.

Our Confidence and Resilience Programme of Support forms the basis of our support promoting good physical and mental health. With a focus on building self-esteem, its chapters are based on raising awareness amongst customers of how their thoughts, feelings and behaviours affect their wellbeing, giving them coping strategies to make small changes that in turn help improve their mental health. It’s all about supporting people to set and achieve their goals through a therapeutic approach.

As part of our programme sessions we ask people to think about their ‘resilience capital’. These are things like activities or relationships that help to balance mental wellbeing when you’re feeling stressed or anxious. It might be something you like to do in your free time, like playing sport or reading, or something you do to relax. People with a ‘good’ level of resilience capital usually have nine different things or actions, but the people we work with in our homeless services often have far less ‘capital’ to turn to. Within our services we promote activities that not only promote life skills but also improve wellbeing, helping to increase resilience capital.

As the saying goes, food is good for the soul. Our Nutrition and Wellbeing Programme of Support module discusses the impact that a poor diet can have on mental wellbeing, and how a balanced diet can help with sleep, reduce stress and generally improve mental health. In this module we give information on the theory behind the practice and also work with customers to assist them with shopping skills on a budget and cooking skills to support them in eating a balanced diet.

‘Relationships’ is the key theme of this year’s Mental Health Awareness Week (16-22 May). Evidence shows that good relationships – with family, friends and our wider communities – are important for our mental wellbeing.

Relationships are important for self-confidence and notable withdrawal from relationships is often a sign of stress or depression. With relationship breakdown often being a contributing factor of homelessness, our support helps people rebuild their connections and to have a positive network of people who they feel they can confidently trust, which is why our Programmes of Support are an important part of our approach at Riverside.

Follow me on Twitter: @helengore1