Currently, 60 percent of residents at Talbot House have a mental health diagnosis. This May, we recognize Mental Health Awareness Month as we work to break the stigma of mental illness in our community.

The connection between homelessness and poor mental health is a complex relationship. Poor mental health is a major contributor to homelessness, in turn, homelessness amplifies poor mental health.

In a 2008 survey performed by the U.S. Conference of Mayors, mental illness was the third largest cause of homelessness for single adults. A 2015 assessment by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development found that 25 percent of homeless individuals were seriously mentally ill, and 45 percent of homeless individuals had a mental illness.

Talbot House recognizes the importance of mental health and has a full-time Licensed Mental Health Counselor on campus. Our Counselor, Shaunese, meets one-on-one with residents and teaches classes on campus such as Coping Skills, Living in Balance, and Overcoming Grief.

“One of the biggest challenges I have in working with clients is their resistance to getting help,” says Shaunese. “In American culture, there is still a stigma associated with mental illness. With the residents we serve here at Talbot House, this is even more true. Many people battling homelessness have been labeled, judged, or mistreated due to their socioeconomic status. So, to add a mental disorder to the labels they are already facing creates another barrier for them getting the help they may desperately need.”

One Talbot House resident says that Shaunese is a wonderful teacher who can explain things in ways that opens your eyes. She went on to say, “Her classes are very educational and we leave with information and practices that we can apply to our daily lives.”

Another resident shared, “Sometimes you just need someone to listen. Other times you’re desperate for a different perspective. Either way, Shaunese is always empathetic and gently guides me through our conversations.”

Individual counseling, group counseling, informational classes—these are all an important part of achieving good mental health. We prioritize the mental health of our residents because it is fundamental to achieving other goals, like sobriety, employment, and self-sufficiency.

We are so thankful for the work that Shaunese does at Talbot House and for all of the mental health professionals across Polk County. Everyone has mental health problems and needs extra support sometimes. Help us break the stigma and encourage mental health awareness in our community this month and every month.