Experiences of psychosis

Finances, housing and benefits

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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Some people went into hostels and supported accommodation, which could be very helpful
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.
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.
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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’.

Last reviewed July 2017.
Last updated July 2017.


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