Housing, personal finances and mental health are all linked. The people we spoke to found that when they felt distressed or their behaviour had changed, it was harder to keep good control over their money and living arrangements. Similarly, under financial pressures and/or in poor living circumstances their mental state was generally worse. Having a stable and affordable place to live mattered to the people that we spoke to. They had lived in different types of accommodation depending on their mental health and needs at the time. People had lived at home with their parents, in in-patient units, in supported accommodation (with a warden on site), in hostels, therapeutic communities, in rented accommodation and in their own homes. A few had been homeless at various points in their lives. Many people felt unable to work because of their mental health problems; this is discussed further in the ‘Work and education’ section.
Finances and benefits
Many said that their experiences had shown them that money wouldn’t bring them happiness. But having enough money to pay the rent or mortgage, and to meet household bills and look after family, was extremely important to people. Sufficient money was sometimes difficult to achieve, particularly for people who felt too ill to work. The stress of financial difficulties did not help their mental state.
Social care assistant, married with adult children. Ethnic background/nationality' Black Afro-Caribbean (born in West Indies); in UK for 41 years
[My] relationship with my wife deteriorated for a while, to the degree I thought we were going to split up and leave each other really things was so hard. And, I don’t know how we, somehow we managed. She didn’t look discontented, although, I felt that I should give her more material things, she wasn’t getting any luck we just existed off the bare minimum. She was getting the spiritual things off me like being comforted, loved and so on and yet she felt that she wasn’t being looked after. That, that was weird to me because I thought I was supporting her in the way I could with all of my resources but I wasn’t providing material things like a house filled with creature comforts or go on holidays. I was providing a loving family, caring for the children and the wife but she felt like she’d been missed out, because I showed most attention to the kids. Missed out in the sense that she believed I was focusing my attention on the children, she really felt that. And if you skim through the book you’ll see it says basically that’s how she felt, I put down how she felt about things. But it wasn’t so I couldn’t see it that I was focusing on the children, I was taking care of the whole family including her. She knew where all the household income was going and nothing was left over to spend on her as a treat I was just saying I had very little money so I couldn’t spend anything on her as such and I thought she would have understood this but I suppose it’s a lady thing that you want things so naturally she wanted them. I thought if she understood the situation we’re in, knowing every penny that coming in, where it’s all going. The strife we had was about our basic living standard and paying the bills. We could hardly afford to feed ourselves. It was so hard that eventually it turned, the way we have to feed ourselves was that my mother and dad would help us out a great deal, not knowing fully these circumstances they used to give us money regularly. I got a fairly good wage, I often tell her no, not to worry, it’s OK, but mother being mother still she give us money that help, help us to buy food. We pay the bills with our income, literally all the money go on bills and we couldn’t feed ourselves, only on my mother’s money she gives us. Sometimes produce from my father-in-law allotment plot get us food, such as vegetables. So that is how we basically existed for a long time with food from the allotment and money from mother. And splitting that up going back about the allotment now when I was ill I was supposed to work the allotment and to help my father-in-law out and the bizarreness of working on an allotment on a hot day, the land was turning round me and it was immensely bizarre again, that’s the only word I can use when I find I can’t explain what don’t seem normal.
Age at interview:
Age at diagnosis:
Pete works as a trainer and advocate. He is 48, White British, and lives with his partner in Sheffield. Pete has three children
And then we had a massive recession in this country, and I lost me job and I couldn’t find work. Well we were under a lot of financial pressure and we, they were going to take the house of us, we’d be homeless, and I, I finished, I got involved in organised crime and it’s not something that’s clever and it’s something I’ll never think, well I’ll be proud of. But going through that period of time, I thought, “To do this you’ve got to, you’ve not got to have a conscience.” And I did [laughs], and I used to worry about going to prison and losing me family and, all the time I would be pouring more and more pressure on meself. Eventually I did find work and I was working seven days a week but, the bills and the, the outstanding money was immense and we, we couldn’t catch up and, that through the stress and the pressure the voices came back and, I always remember the first time it came back really dominant, it was a real loud shouting voice, it was a Friday evening and I was walking through Sheffield town centre and this voice kept screaming at me saying, “You’re Mickey McAvoy, you’re worth millions.” And Mickey McAvoy was the guy who robbed the Brinks Mat gold and I foolishly believed this, you know, and , thinking I would got all this money stashed away I walked into this pub and bought everybody a drink and then bought another one so you can imagine the problems when I got home with no money. And this went on for quite a long time but I still never disclosed, I had this big fear of disclosure, of not being believed. And, eventually a friend of mine asked me to go in business with him, and we set up this business and in the first year we turned over a million pound, but then with that comes a lot of stress and pressure and, we were working eighteen hours a day seven days a week. And because I would never told me wife about the abuse, because the major problem was what the abuser did to me of, some of it was quite disgusting, but I would got over that through dissociation, I didn’t feel the pain, but it’s what she said, it was the mind games and me mind had never healed from the, from the fear.
When people couldn’t cope with voices they sometimes couldn’t work; two people mentioned losing their jobs for reasons they believe to do with their mental distress.
Ron is a trainer and consultant, having worked in the field of mental health for several years. He is married with seven children. Ethnic background' White British.
I got more voices and I, I ended up that I was, I was going to work and, but I wouldn’t work I’d just sit there and listen to all this nonsense going on and, some of it quite, vile [sighs], Well I did, I’d a voice telling me it was my fault I led him into sin, I deserved to burn in hell and, and that was the voice of the priest, and then I heard [NAME]’s voice telling me to kill myself so we could be a family again and, oh it was, it was awful and then of course what happens, my boss pulled me in and told me I’d , you know, a couple of weeks to get my act together and I never got it together, I got a golden handshake which is how, how it works there. , and, I had to sign papers saying I wouldn’t no work with a, another firm for two years or something but the, the size of the golden handshake covers
All that. I sold my house and moved into a sort of studio flat. Which is a posh way of saying a bedsit I think it shows you how middle class I’ve become.
Yeah? and then I spent three months, totally out of my head on drugs and alcohol.
And I went through thousands over that three months in, in money, I spent nearly everything I had, I had loads of friends then but the [laughs], you know, they were only there because there was drugs and alcohol on the go.
And then one morning I just could no take it anymore, I went to my doctors and I told him, and he got me, I saw a pychiatrist the same day and the pychiatrist had told me at the end of it that he thought I might have a serious mental illness and I needed to come into hospital.
A few people had spent large sums of money on street drugs, with resulting financial problems. Andrew had spent money on cannabis, in part to self-medicate after losing his leg in an accident; Robert had severe debt problems after using heroin and methamphetamine for years.
People told us that benefits were sometimes hard to understand and sort out. Nevertheless, some said they had got many different types of benefit. Housing benefits were also available to people who had serious and enduring mental health problems. The two main forms of housing support were Housing Benefit and Council Tax Benefit. Since these interviews the benefit system has undergoing large changes. For an update and summary of current benefits see the GOV UK website and Rethink.
Ceridwen is unemployed/disabled, single, and hoping soon to live independently. Ethnic background/nationality' White British.
And how do you do for money?
It’s not easy. I have DLA and income support. It’s not easy to live on that. But I do. And I set aside a little bit every week, so I can do my baking, because I love baking. I don’t have, as I say I don’t have enough to save anything. You know, I’d love to have savings, but it’s not going to happen on what I earn. But I live. You know, I’ve never, I’m not in debt. I’m not struggling. I just cope.
And has anybody helped you getting DLA?
Yes, various social workers. My new one has been very good about getting direct payment for my water, because I, I find it easier that way.
So do you have direct payments at the moment?
I have direct payments for water, and gas, electric and phone I pay myself. And I’m with [company name] which is really cheap. And I don’t use my phone much, so you know. Internet is only £10 a month. So I cope. I don’t have nice food. I don’t have posh things. But you don’t need them. You know, Tesco value diced beef, is no worse than anything else. You just need to stew it longer. You know. And I have a slow cooker, which I bought when I was having my last episode. The day nurses insisted I bought nice cookery equipment. And I hated them for it. But I’m glad they did. I know I didn’t want to be told what to do, but I’m glad they did. And, a slow cooker, well I make a couple of days meals in a slow cooker, you know, or a casseroles, and lasagnes and that.
Councils can help people receiving Social Care Services with Direct Payments, instead of for example providing a carer. Several people spoke about this way of organising their care.
Rachel does voluntary work, is single and has one son who is 7. Ethnic Background' White British.
I mean I think it’s a shame, because a lot of people haven’t heard of direct payments or… and they’re just trying to bring it into mental health and it’s quite a slow process and I think it would work for a lot of people. I’ve got one friend who’s getting it, and I’ve got another friend who’s applied, but she’s waiting to hear, so we will have to see what happens with that. And it’s been changed now. Called ‘Self Directed Support’ and I helped her fill in the form and it took us an hour. And it’s quite lengthy. It’s a bit like the DLA form about what you have to do, what help you need and what your needs are and things like that. And yes. So that’s the new scheme and I’ll see how it goes for people, but I really recommend the direct payments if you are a person that does suffer a lot from being in hospital to be monitored all the time. I mean my direct payments worker’s never had to make the phone call but she knows the numbers to contact, my Mum and my CPN if I’m showing any signs of becoming unwell. And that can be all sorts of things like overspending and getting up on a high, having lots of energy, you know, talking too much. Things like that to going the other way and being low and not wanting to get out of bed. She does see me have duvet days some days and I refuse to get dressed. She’ll say, “Are you getting dressed today?” I’ll say, “No, I’m having a duvet day.” I don’t bother to get dressed, but I don’t do that very often now. So that’s nice. And she’s very supportive because she’ll help me with things round the house and cleaning and shopping and doing my clothes and things like that because I’ve got lazy-itis which nothing to do with having an illness, it’s purely the fact I’ve had her for a couple of years now and when she first came in, I was quite depressed and she’s helped me through that bad period and now I’m better, I’ve kind of got used to her doing it. So I am treated like a depressed person when I’m actually fine. But there you go.
So I take advantage of that, so it’s really like having a housekeeper. But it’s the company as well that’s the important thing. you know, I know that when I get up, she makes me a cup of tea which is really nice, and she lets herself in the door and shouts up, good morning and I drag myself down and then I spend a couple of hours just talking to her in the morning and that’s how we start off and that’s quite nice. So it’s companionship.
And I think particularly for me because I’m single. I think if I was in a relationship it would be different, and I probably wouldn’t need direct payments, but I don’t like being on my own and so for me it works, and long may it last. I don’t know with the present government what will happen with the funding or things like that but for me it’s really working. So for me it is quite amazing really and I just hope more people can get access to it.
Georgina valued direct payments which enabled her son to hire a personal assistant to help organise his bills and escort him on trips to do things like visiting the theatre. Direct payments also helped her as she could go on holiday without worrying about who would care for her son.
Several people had been helped to get the right benefit by their social worker, community psychiatric nurse or psychiatrist. While some had felt uneasy or guilty about living on benefits, they believed that working to earn enough money to live on would be impossible for them. Robert said he couldn’t afford essential services such as dental care: his partner had pulled one of his teeth out. But most people just found their lives more limited and modest because of their financial situation.
Many people had moved house during the time they had felt ill. Some people spent time as in-patients and couldn’t (or didn’t want to) return to their previous place. Most people returned to live with their parents or partners. Tom said that after coming out of hospital he went to live with his mum who provided a peaceful environment which he found helpful as he was sensitive to stressful situations.
Green Lettuce wants to be an entrepreneur, lives in the countryside, is single and has no children. Ethnic Background' White British.
It’s just so peaceful, there’s just hardly any noise at all. It’s an easy life.
And what do you think about living here? Is it just the peacefulness that you...?
Here it’s a lot, it’s very quiet. Where I lived before it was in a village, but we were on the main road through, so you know, basically it wasn’t too bad, but the neighbour was annoying. That’s part of the reason we moved I think.
He used to spy on us all the time, well, when I was outside or my Mum was outside he was just looking through the window all the time, and like cutting flowers down, and spraying them with hose.
Yes, it was pretty bad, and he was liking banging on the walls, when I played music and stuff, even though it wasn’t very loud. He phoned the police up loads of times as well. But like slam doors. One time he came in, into the house on his own. Like without even being invited, like through the back door I think, and knocked on my brother’s door and asked him to turn his music down. Yeah.
Some people went into hostels and supported accommodation, which could be very helpful
Colin is currently unemployed, living in a flat, is single with no children. Ethnic Background' White Scottish.
But I was [clears throat] as I say only in for eight weeks and it just seemed to be, you know, I got back and sort of fairly coherent mindset and I was taken up to a hostel, like a hostel for... to just like a social work, house, hostel in Edinburgh and it was, it was, yes, I was just there for a six months and they teach you how to behave you know, cook, be a bit more social. It was interesting that. I mean it was like, you know, I mean I was pretty fragile and as I say it was a weird thing because sometimes I’d be okay and other times it would be, you know, and it was almost like sleeping. You know, I would go to bed at 10 o’clock at night and probably struggle to get up [coughs] at nine, you know, so it was like, you know, it was like sleep therapy, but it was like taking it too far. And I was just like, I was... but anyway, but that was, that did knock, knock the psychosis pretty much on the head.
So what was it like living there in a hostel?
It was fine. It was good. It was it was it was a good place to sort of you know, recuperate. Or convalesce. At the start, I mean, the doctor said, “At the time you were probably were unwell for a long time.” How long? I’ve a feeling there’s not much point thinking too much about that.
However, Cat found that the rooms were too small in a hostel and that she felt paranoid and wanted to avoid particular people. Her psychiatrist helped her to find her own flat where she felt better. A few people had spent time on the streets when they were unwell, but were now living independently.
Robert used to be a labourer, is living with his partner and had one child Ethnic background' White English
Robert' But now I look back on it and I think bloody hell like. You know, it does, it scares me, worries me like… I mean some of the time just walking around like you know, because I wouldn’t go home. I spent days and days sleeping on, just sleeping out, sleeping in the streets because I didn’t like being in doors. It was like being trapped. Sat in doors hearing people, hearing voices that I knew weren’t there. So it was easier for me to be outside the house, than what it was inside like. And this went on for about a couple of years back?
Robert' It must have been close mustn’t it. This went on for a couple of years. But as I say the only way I got round it, was I just upped and moved. Like sort of thanks to [name of partner] like, you know. Just upped and moved, got away from all the drugs, started again and now, now I’m relatively happy like. You know. But as I say at the time it was scary. I wouldn’t, I mean I’m not sort of person to turn and say oh I’m scared of this or I’m scared of that because that’s really not me, but with mental health you know, you think aw…. [laughs] And it is very scary situation.
Andrew had lived in squats when he was unemployed and homeless, living with his parents while recovering, and then living independently. A few people had also been in prison, and, whilst David found the environment and the routine ‘not too bad’, Mary's son was traumatised by the experience.
Mary is a nurse and has helped with the care for her son, who was diagnosed with schizophrenia in 2007. Ethnic background/nationality White Irish.
When I went to visit him in prison, I mean it was horrendous. I mean, all, all leading up to that, and prison, I mean I’d never been inside a prison in my life. It was awful trying to even to get to visit him. But I noticed then that he was beginning to imagine things that were going on and he said that people were listening, you know, through the things in the ceiling, and they were always watching you, and listening to what you were saying, and he was getting really sort of psychotic then.
And when you’re in prison you don’t have any rights, you don’t anything, you don’t know what to do, because you don’t know how to contact people. So I ended up getting my daughter to come from [place name] and seeing what she thought, and she said, “Oh no.” She said, “He’s not right. But what are we going to do about it?” And I said, “Well…” And he didn’t want us, because I kept saying to him, [son’s name] you know, there’s something, you’re not well, there’s something wrong.” He didn’t want me to do anything about it.
Anyway we did. We contacted his probation officer, and she... she got in contact with some new in-reach team that were in the prison service, and it took ages for them to get back to us, but they said, when they went to see him.
They said, “That he actually shouldn’t be in prison at all. That he needed to be in a hospital.” But it took them nine months before they actually transferred him to hospital, and he was in hospital for, well in a secure unit, as they call it, for nine months. Okay.
Although several people valued the support their families in an emergency, most wanted to live independently in the longer term. Rachel said she got on better with her family when she lived independently, and another felt that she could have her own routine living on her own, including putting the washing machine on in the middle of the night if she couldn’t sleep. For more about housing see ‘Recovery’.