Working with a diverse community means encountering a diverse set of challenges – oftentimes, these are the very challenges that lead these folks into experiencing poverty. Often, when someone is experiencing homelessness, they’re also struggling with mental illness. In fact, according to The Homeless Hub, 30 to 35 per cent of those experiencing homelessness report mental health issues.
Bissell Centre’s support workers are trained and skilled at working with folks managing an array of mental health challenges. While diagnoses and treatments are best left to medical professionals, support workers’ expertise lies in helping folks manage the immediate surfacing symptoms of the mental illness they are experiencing.
For Mental Health Month, we’re taking a look at the most prevalent mental health indicators seen – and how our Mental Health program and support workers help our community members with the immediate challenges they face.
Bissell Centre’s Mental Health Program
Bissell Centre mental health support staff work as advocates for folks experiencing mental health complications. Oftentimes, community members struggle to navigate our health care system – or worse, have seen family and friends fall through the cracks. They may also have their own trauma and now distrust the health care system.
This service to community members goes far beyond helping with immediate crises. Support workers will continue reaching out to community members they helped and accompany them to appointments and help them be comfortable enough to voice their experience and advocate for themselves.
The main difference is the trust we build with our community members. While folks have their reasons to distrust establishments, we can overcome that barrier with one-to-one connections, supportive conversations, and mapping out a strategy for reaching whatever goals folks might have.
Most Common Mental Health Issues we see
Whether it’s a pre-existing condition, instigated from trauma, a result of substance use, or a combination of all these factors, Bissell Centre works with a lot of different mental health experiences – mainly as they outwardly present. Again, any further assessments are better left to mental health professionals.
Our support workers help folks manage their immediate crises: this can include anger and agitation, hallucinations and dissociation, thoughts of self-harm and suicide, or any other immediate challenge the community member needs to work through.
Bissell has a Mental Health program that works directly with those in need. However, so many of our case workers in other programs, including FASS, Housing, Family Services, and Case Management also provide ongoing supports to community members. We find we have the most success when we collaborate as the many elements of houselessness are so entwined.
While Bissell Centre isn’t a cure for mental health, it’s easily one of the best first stops someone can make when they’re working through mental health issues. Our support workers are well-versed in Alberta’s health system – and how best our community members can get the help they need to move out of poverty and find their prosperity.