Talbot House recently hired a full-time licensed mental health counselor, Shaunese. She is already very busy, reaching about 20 residents a week. Although Shaunese is doing as much as she can, she can’t service all our residents at one time. To help her, all Talbot House staff completed mental health first aid training to manage mental health crises and other situations.

Why is mental health important, especially for the homeless population?

Shaunese describes the homeless population as having numerous unaddressed traumas, losses, and hurt, followed typically with a lack of support, resources, or skills. She explains that living on the streets for one day could involve the frequent rejection of cars and people passing by and fearing where to eat, sleep, or shower. These experiences, combined with the internal or external problems that caused the person’s homelessness, could lead to severe mental health concerns.

A person experiencing homelessness could have also suffered the loss of a home, job, family, money, food, hygiene, and dignity. Just one loss can affect a person’s well-being. Just imagine the effect that so many losses could have on a homeless individual’s mental health.

Think about the last time you saw someone on the street corner. Were you immediately assessing their exterior, judging whether they were substance abusers, crazy, or needy? There is no specific look of homelessness, just like there is no particular appearance of mental health issues.

The leading causes of homelessness include lack of affordable housing, unemployment, poverty, and mental illness with the lack of needed services. Although many societal issues can cause a person to experience homelessness, the stigma of homelessness can be most detrimental to their mental well-being.

How does mental health counseling help?

Therapy is work. There is no magic button to make all the hurt and pain go away; instead, a counselor continuously challenges the patient’s thoughts, feelings, actions, and coping methods.

Mental health counseling involves learning how to set boundaries with yourself and other people, find healthy coping mechanisms, and complete self-care techniques. Society tends to teach people to ignore or suppress problems or utilize unhealthy coping. Mental health counseling instead challenges one to face issues while developing healthy ways to grow and adapt.

What can you do to help?

Talbot House Ministries is seeking to de-stigmatize mental illness and individuals experiencing homelessness. You never know what someone else is going through, so simple asks of kindness and support can make a world of difference. You can also spread information and the resources of clinics, medical offices, health departments, or organizations that help those in need. Mental well-being is for everyone.