Communities that care

The lack of wider community support available for people severely affected by mental illness such as supported housing, employment help, debt advice and access to independent advocacy can exacerbate mental health problems and leave people not knowing where to turn. Our new research has found that people want more support in these areas.

Our report Building communities that care: a blueprint for supporting people severely affected by mental illness in their local communities by 2024 argues that when we support people as a ‘whole’, we give them the opportunity to thrive, not just survive.

When it comes to supporting people severely affected by mental illness, making sure people are able to access high quality treatment in a timely manner is one vital part of the picture. But we also need to think about all the other factors that shape our mental health: our housing, our jobs, our financial situation, and our support networks

We think it’s time that communities and organisations come together to play their part in providing social activities, volunteering opportunities, or advice for issues such as debt or employment. This in turn can lighten the burden that people with mental illness carry.

In April 2019, we surveyed people severely affected by mental illness and their carers about the support they want to receive. Here is a summary of our findings:

  • Less than a third of people (30%) said they were offered help finding suitable housing or tenancy support
  • Only 23% were offered support finding a job or staying in work, while not all those who wanted to find a volunteering placement (38%) ended up receiving support to do so (27%)
  • The three areas people with mental illness most want support in are applying for benefits (50%), staying active (48%) and getting involved in free community initiatives (48%)
  • 50% said they were not involved in community wellbeing projects, for example gardening, arts and crafts or social clubs – mostly because they did not know what projects were available in their area (61%)
  • People living in London were the least likely to access community projects due to a lack of knowledge about opportunities in their area (77%), followed by people in North West England at 75%.
  • 70% of people who had received mental health support for over four years reported wanting support finding a job or staying in work, but only 35% received this support.