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February 27 2018
Depression © Pixabay Depression © Pixabay
I was ready to kill myself a few years ago. I’m really happy I didn’t... I was ready to kill myself a few years ago. I’m really happy I didn’t...

UB40’s hit One in Ten refers to someone on the dole, but change it to one-in-200 and the sentiment could easily be applied to the homeless community. We’re on the street and in the public’s face, yet we remain invisible.

My first experience of homelessness came after a single traumatic event changed the dynamic of my addiction to class A drugs. The subsequent depression was unremitting – my broken mind would see myself sucking on a shotgun. They were extremely dark days, but I somehow knew that I wasn’t going to attempt suicide. It was the pain that I wanted to end, not my life, and there’s a big difference.

After I ran out of sofa surfing credits, I became street homeless. The need to survive meant thoughts of suicide disappeared until I found myself in a hostel. In fact, many people who’ve experienced the carousel of homelessness will single out the time they spent in a hostel as the most depressing part of their journey.

People can feel cut off and alienated, rather like packages being moved through a warehouse. The energy and camaraderie of the street is replaced by an institutional atmosphere that breeds mistrust and paranoia. Losing hope is the worst feeling, but what scared me more was the feeling of serenity and peace that replaced it once I had made the decision to end my life.

Recent research has shown that two of the most important elements for the completion of suicide are:
• The person feels like they are a burden on society
• They have become used to pain in one form or another.


In pain

Over the past few weeks Londoners may have taken part in Groundswell’s pain survey (where you got £5 for answering questions about the impact of pain on your life). What the survey seems to show is that many of us in the homeless community are both used to chronic pain, and suffer some degree of shame over the condition we find ourselves in.

Dave [name changed to protect identity], a case worker at one of London’s leading charities, told me: “I do not think hostels are welcoming environments that encourage people to thrive… Due to cuts, there is a shocking lack of specialist resources available for people in this kind of crisis. I think the complex nature of most of our clients' needs makes it even harder for them to successfully access this type of support.”

With many frontline professionals facing almost double the workload over the past five years, it can be difficult for them to be proactive when it comes to dealing with clients who may be suicidal.

With this in mind, let them know if you need help and tell them louder if you don’t think you’re getting it.

Despite the hardship, the discomfort and the pain of being homeless, we always have each other. We should never take that for granted. Look, there are arseholes in any walk of life, that’s undeniable, but the homeless community has more than its fair share of generous-hearted people who look out for each other. Please don’t let hostels take that spirit away.

At the end of the day we value each other because we don’t have things to value, not in spite of it. Never be ashamed of having nothing, because you will always belong to a community that genuinely values you for who you are, regardless.


What next...

Case workers may be dealing with heavy workloads, but they are there to help. Don’t think of yourself as a burden. Ask for help. If you aren’t getting it, ask louder. If that still doesn’t work, ask someone else.

Find a place that will buy you lunch and pay your travel. Keep yourself busy and opportunities will come.

Especially when you are in a hostel.

Don’t be fobbed off by someone telling you that you are not entitled to counselling because you are in active addiction. Look up health group DDA (Dual Diagnosis Anonymous) if you think that NA (Narcotics Anonymous) or AA (Alcoholics Anonymous) doesn’t take account of your mental health issues.

It’s key to recovery.

Once the preserve of middle class mums, all sorts of people are discovering the benefits of yoga for mental health.

The Samaritans are always at the end of a phone, tel: 116 123.