Reprinted from the "Housing" issue of Visions Journal, 2013, 8 (1), p. 4
It’s appropriate that the issue before this one was on wellness. It’s hard to imagine staying mentally and physically well without decent, safe and affordable housing. And it’s equally hard to imagine finding and keeping good housing on your own if you’re not well.
Forgive me a slightly cheesy metaphor but some of the things I take away from this issue were recalled to me the other day when I was making a blanket fort with my kids. The materials and location and size had to be right. And when it was done, there was the joy and peace of being in a safe, cozy space that felt like our own, filled with the people (and a few things) we love. The roof was essential, of course, but really it was the feeling of home that was the key ingredient.
But the other part of the metaphor is that blanket forts can be fragile or strong. They’re more stable if you support them on multiple edges and corners and drape them over some solid furniture. Similarly, some of us in our lives have more supports than others. If you suddenly lost your job, income or home, you may have savings to draw on or spouses, partners, family members, close friends to help you out with rent, mortgage or a place to stay. But imagine if, for a whole lot of reasons, you didn’t have those savings or those supporters. Now the blanket is being held up by only two or three corners instead of a dozen. It might fall, it might not. The stress and worry of keeping it up affects your well-being. Far too many British Columbians—and not just those with mental illness and addictions—are living that way. It’s a recipe for mental health and substance use problems if they’re not there to begin with.
Several writers comment in this issue on housing as a human right. Because it’s so powerful, I’ll end this message with Article 25.1 of the United Nations’ Universal Declaration of Human Rights. For more on what it means for government and community, read the UN fact sheet listed on the last page of this issue.
“Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including food, clothing, housing and medical care and necessary social services, and the right to security in the event of unemployment, sickness, disability, widowhood, old age or other lack of livelihood in circumstances beyond his control.”
About the authorSarah is Visions Editor and Director of Mental Health Promotion at the Canadian Mental Health Association's BC Division. She also has personal experience with mental illness