In an emotional film that calls for more support for people with severe mental illnesses, Alastair Campbell hears a story that is close to home.
Just one in five people who are severely mentally ill live in supported housing and the charity Rethink Mental Illness fears cuts to housing benefit will reduce that number.
Rethink Mental Illness fears a proposed cap on housing benefit will particularly hit those living in supported housing, which has additional costs, and make many of them homeless.
In a new video produced by the charity, Campbell meets Mark, a 32-year-old diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia in 2010.
Campbell’s older brother Donald died aged 62 this summer, having lived “a very good life” despite having schizophrenia for most of his life.
Mark tells Campbell, an ambassador for the charity, how he lost his job, became homeless and was in and out of hospital almost weekly when his illness was at its worst.
But Mark started living in sheltered housing provided by Rethink Mental Illness. With the charity’s support, he is hoping to move out and live independently again after three years.
He tells Campbell how he began hearing voices at work and attempted suicide.
Living in supported housing has helped Mark overcome his drinking and get on medication. “Life is generally good at the moment,” he says.
Campbell says: “If people with severe mental illness can get proper support, have somewhere decent to live and people around them who understand and appreciate them, they can give something back. It’s so important that supported housing services exist.”
The film is part of Rethink Mental Illness’ new A Place Called Home campaign, launched to coincide with Schizophrenia Awareness Week that started on Monday.
The campaign calls on Theresa May to provide full funding for safe and secure supported housing for people with severe mental health problems for as long as they need it.
One in three people sleeping rough has a mental illness.
Brian Dow, director of external affairs at Rethink Mental Illness, said: “Supported housing is fundamental to the many people who have a mental illness and are not well enough to live independently.
“It provides a safe roof over your head but also the vital extras which can include access to support groups, or help with life skills like budgeting or finding a job.”
He added: “In her acceptance speech on become Prime Minister, Theresa May said that ‘if you suffer from mental health problems there’s not enough help to hand’.
“She was quite right to acknowledge the difficulties people with mental illness have getting the right kind of support.
“Yet there is now a big question mark hanging over supported housing. Without this kind of support, it will only mean people will be forced to rely more heavily on already overstretched mental health services further down the line.”