Housing is a foundation for mental health
The intersection of mental health and housing is a pressing issue that has been exacerbated by the current economic climate. In a country where the cost of living is rising - with housing being one of the most significant expenses - it is crucial to recognise the profound impact this has on our mental wellbeing.
Our 2023 Report to the Nation revealed some concerning statistics. Nearly two-thirds (58 per cent) of people in Australia have reported that the rising cost of living is significantly affecting their mental health. Additionally, almost half (45 per cent) of the respondents noted that housing costs are a major contributor to the deterioration of their mental health.
Australia’s housing situation has reached a point of crisis, and this is having a direct and disproportionate impact on those living with mental health conditions. Adequate housing is the cornerstone of mental health recovery, social participation, and economic stability. When someone is without secure and appropriate housing, it becomes exceedingly challenging to manage mental health effectively.
The complex relationship between mental health and housing is undeniable. People grappling with mental health issues are more likely to experience housing insecurity. Simultaneously, those experiencing housing insecurity are at a higher risk of developing or perpetuating mental health issues.
To effectively address these intertwined challenges, a holistic and integrated approach is crucial. Mental Health Australia is calling for specific consideration of people with mental ill-health and psychosocial disabilities as a priority population in the Australian Government’s National Housing and Homelessness Plan.
In our submission to the Australian Government Department of Social Services consultation on the National Housing and Homelessness Plan, we fully support comprehensive action across government departments to tackle the root causes of homelessness, including income support deficiencies, family and domestic violence, and the dire lack of social and affordable housing.
For people facing severe mental health challenges and homelessness or housing instability, integrated housing and mental health support have proven to be highly effective. Such programs not only aid in mental health recovery but also promote tenancy stability and reduce hospital admissions. Moreover, they are cost-effective to implement, offering a win-win solution.
However, a significant gap exists in supported housing, with estimates suggesting a shortage of 9,000 to 12,000 places. Mental Health Australia implores governments to address this critical gap through the National Housing and Homelessness Plan.
We are advocating for a comprehensive approach to preventing and responding to homelessness. This includes improved coordination between housing and mental health systems, and the implementation of a nationally consistent formal policy of ‘no exits into homelessness’ from institutional care – backed by an increase in transitional support and the supply of social and affordable housing. In addition, we are calling for a boost to mental health training for social housing workers to better support tenants with complex needs.
I want to express my gratitude to all our members, including lived experience and carer representatives, service providers, and professional groups, who have contributed to our recommendations to government. Your dedication and insights are invaluable to our advocacy efforts.
Mental Health Australia remains committed to advocating for action to address housing costs and ensure access to affordable and appropriate housing for everyone in Australia, including people with mental ill-health.
Together we can ensure an integrated approach to housing and mental health.
Have a good weekend,
CEO, Mental Health Australia