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'I'd be dead, simple as that': Homeless people with mental health difficulties treated 'every day' at Merchants Quay

Merchants Quay said the research shows that homelessness can have a profound and long-lasting effect on a person’s mental health.

File photo
File photo
Image: Shutterstock/Srdjan Randjelovic

PEOPLE WHO ARE homeless are presenting to Merchants Quay Ireland and offer supports for mental health difficulties “every single day”, and the charity has launched an appeal to help fund its mental health team.

Reliant on public donations to continue its work, the mental health unit at Merchants Quay has said it needs funding so it can offer support to the approximately 400 homeless people that receive care every year.

Speaking to TheJournal.ie, mental health nurse Zoe Dillon said that Merchants Quay frequently handles cases of homeless people suffering mental health difficulties as “the lifestyle is so traumatising”. 

“The difficulty for homeless individuals is that they don’t have the necessary supports in place that a lot of people would take for granted,” she said. 

It’s more difficult to get referrals for services. And that lack of structure they have in their lives can lead to them developing anxiety and depression from the situation they’re in. 

Merchants Quay said that its service can often be one of the only places someone who is homeless and suffering poor mental health can turn to in order to access services.

It wants to use any additional funding to help support extending that service outside of normal hours. 

Denis, one person who came into contact with the service, said: “When you’re homeless, you go around with a knot in your stomach all day.  Physically it makes you feel very unwell but mentally, it takes a huge toll on you. It can be soul destroying.”

He said that if he didn’t receive the mental health support that he was given, then “I’d be dead, it’s as simple as that”. 

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Dillon also outlined one case of a couple who was supported by the team at Merchants Quay after they became homeless.

“Neither of them had mental issues prior to becoming homeless,” she said. “When we met them, their moods were so low. They had massive anxiety, as well as being homeless. 

Fortunately they linked in with us, and they managed to get rented accommodation. But there are lingering side effects afterwards. They haven’t forgotten what they went through. We still keep in contact. For those months they were homeless, it’s a massive trauma that doesn’t go away straight away.

About the author:

Sean Murray

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