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Guest blog: Groundswell share their insights for Mental Health Awareness Week

Guest blog: Groundswell share their insights for Mental Health Awareness Week

Guest blog: Groundswell share their insights for Mental Health Awareness Week

Tuesday, May 16, 2023

Mental Health Awareness Week runs from 15 to 21 May 2023. As part of this, we are pleased to feature a guest blog written by Mat Amp, from Groundswell’s Listen Up! Team. Mat shares insights into the challenges accessing mental health support, as well as what works, including practical resources that can be used by frontline homelessness staff.

Groundswell is a charity that works to create solutions to homelessness that come directly from people with experience of homelessness. Our Comic Relief-funded Listen Up! project is led by lived experience and we aim to kickstart major change towards better healthcare access and life expectancy for people experiencing homelessness. We have a team of volunteer Reporters who report stories through the Listen Up! hub, we are developing Rights-Based Training to help people advocate for their own rights, and we create Insights that we use to influence decision makers and practitioners.

The first topic we chose to focus on was mental health; it’s a huge issue for our Reporters, for the people we hear from more broadly, and for people experiencing homelessness. We also know, from our research and lived experience, that people experiencing both homelessness and mental health issues are worried about being stigmatised in healthcare settings. We produced an Insight Report about it last year: https://groundswell.org.uk/listen-up-insights/

Nothing, it seems, is easy. In my reporting over the years there have been numerous references to the way the system failed me when I tried to access counselling. I was refused the counselling I needed to help me stop using drugs because I was using drugs. Fortunately, I received the counselling I needed to get clean through an experimental research project. I’m pretty sure that without that I wouldn’t be here today.

In two pieces for Listen Up! Tess, one of Listen Up’s Project Officers, writes about the issues she faces with mental health. In the report entitled ‘The past would let go of me’ she gives a sharp insight in to the process of trying to access treatment for mental health issues in this country.

Tess writes a lot about her experience accessing mental health services and encourages a more open and honest debate when it comes to talking about and reporting on suicide. The way she talks about suicide has made me a lot more comfortable with an issue that I used to find incredibly difficult to talk about for fear of offending someone or triggering someone else.

Her direct style and outright emotional honesty produce powerful reports. Please read the pieces linked below. In the first one she talks about some of the problems she faced accessing mental health support and in the other piece she talks about some of the positive things that help.

Layers of assessment that feature intrusive and sometimes plain strange or inappropriate questions leave her feeling uncomfortable. She feels she has to answer questions or face being labelled as non-compliant. Listening to her and many others that I have interviewed for research projects with Groundswell over the years, it is evident that problems such as high staff turnover, lack of communication between services and a failure to contact people at designated times are common problems.

The one problem that seems to be experienced by all those seeking help with mental issues is the protracted waiting times for help to be delivered.

Please read this report first: https://groundswell-listenup-hub.org/the-past-would-let-go-of-me/ and then read this report for some of the positive things that have helped Tess over the years: https://groundswell-listenup-hub.org/what-went-right/

Groundswell and our #HealthNow partners, Crisis and Shelter, are developing a campaign to help healthcare and homelessness teams to:

  • Recognise and understand people’s fear of being stigmatised and how it may present.
  • Identify actions practitioners can take to ensure their service is welcoming.
  • Help the people around them to recognise and avoid stigmatising behaviours.


We have produced a number of resources that we hope people will find helpful:

Groundswell & Mind leaflet ‘You have the right to feel OK’

You can give this leaflet directly to your clients or patients to help them understand their rights to mental health support if they’re experiencing homelessness and having thoughts, feelings or experiences that are upsetting or overwhelming.https://groundswell.org.uk/wpdm-package/mental-health-homelessness-guide-2/

‘Clarissa’, the film

Clarissa’s story is one of trauma, the importance of trust, and how this impacts someone’s experiences of healthcare. It has been woven together from real experiences of people trying to access the healthcare system while facing homelessness in the UK. Watch the film and download the resource pack at: https://groundswell.org.uk/resources/clarissa/ This film is used by many healthcare providers in team meetings, training or inductions.​ (23 mins)

Top tips for GPs to support people facing multiple disadvantages, a short film

Producing in partnership by Groundswell, #HealthNow and Westminster Changing Futures, this new film features advice to GPs working with people with lived experience of homelessness  https://groundswell.org.uk/wpdm-package/top-tips-for-gps-to-support-people-with-multiple-disadvantage/ (9 mins)


How you can help:

  1. Share our resources with your team, and tell us how it went: research@groundswell.org.uk
  2. Sign up to our #HealthNow newsletter at https://groundswell.org.uk/get-involved/sign-up-for-our-newsletter/ to hear more and get involved with our campaign.
  3. Read, watch, comment and share our Listen Up! reports and short films at https://groundswell-listenup-hub.org/ and sign up to the Listen Up! newsletter at https://groundswell.us20.list-manage.com/subscribe?u=898f9a6f3bf48a747d1b8a9d0&id=cb4875e542

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