Tess Tainton co-chairs the group and has been involved for over a year now, taking it through an innovative and enlightening process that has involved hundreds of voices. She shares some of her experiences, thoughts and reasons for getting involved here:
“I got involved through work I had done with the National Expert Citizens Group where I had spoken about my experiences of being stigmatised against while trying to navigate mental health and homelessness services. This is why I got involved.
“I became homeless after losing my job. Part of what keeps my mental health stable is a routine and knowing what I’m doing/when I’m doing it/what is expected of me, so when I was put on mandatory sick leave due to my mental health I became quite chaotic. I found myself sleeping for over 18 hours a day, I stopped washing and eating properly, I only left the house to ensure my cats had enough to eat. Along the way, I missed a couple of appointments with my psychiatrist, leading to my getting discharged. By the time I had officially lost my job I’d decided to wait until my money ran out and then I’d end my life. Needless to say, that plan failed! At that point I had missed around three months of rent payments so eviction was inevitable. Support was put into place and the CAB tried to get my eviction postponed to allow time for alternative accommodation to be found but I still found myself homeless with very little help. After a period of sofa surfing I was housed.
Perhaps the most frustrating part of the experience, in hindsight, was the removal of psychiatric support when I’d never needed it more with the addition of my discharge letter telling me that my diagnosis had been changed at some point from cyclothymia to borderline personality disorder. I perceived the removal of help as a sign that I wasn’t worthy of being supported and I withdrew further. I found myself avoiding going to my GP and only taking my medication every two to three days leading to severe withdrawal symptoms. Once help had been re-established my GP was unable to refer me back to psychiatry as my tenancy may not have been in the surgeries catchment area. It was over six months after my suicide attempt that a referral was made into secondary services and a further three months after that before I was seen.
It’s these experiences which motivated me to get involved with the action group. It scares me how many people have similar stories to my own when there are relatively simple steps which could be taken to prevent service users falling through the cracks. I think the Homelessness Charter and the work being done in the various action groups could help make these preventative measures take a huge leap in helping to make stories like my own a thing of the past.”
Read the mental health edition of At a Glance here and, if you’d like be involved, get to our meeting on 6th February.