Mental Health Challenges in Housing


Posted On: August 26, 2022

Vernell Callahan
vcallahan@navigatehousing.com
mental health challenges
The residents we refer to as “special,” “difficult,” or “challenging” need our support more today than ever.

It is difficult to know precisely where the future of affordable housing will take us in the next five years. However, we can confidently say that supporting housing services for people with mental health challenges will be a significant part of it.

Property managers must be aware of our residents facing mental health challenges. Our country faces an unprecedented mental health crisis among people of all ages, with nearly 50 million Americans experiencing mental health challenges and two out of five adults reporting symptoms of anxiety or depression. 

It is no secret that property managers already wear various hats: manager, counselor, investigator, marketer, accountant, enforcer, customer service representative, etc. We’ve talked about this before. However, to address the needs of the 1 in 5 Americans who struggle with mental health issues daily, the painful reality is that we must educate ourselves to be compassionate and supportive while providing a safe and secure place to live.

What to look for

The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) offers several resources to help identify behaviors that might be the sign of a mental health condition:

  • Excessive worrying
  • Feeling sad
  • Confused thinking or problems concentrating 
  • Extreme mood changes, uncontrollable “highs” or feelings of euphoria
  • Irritability or anger
  • Avoiding friends and social activities
  • Difficulty understanding or relating to other people
  • Difficulty perceiving reality (delusions or hallucinations, in which a person experiences and senses things that don’t exist in objective reality)
  • Inability to perceive changes in one’s own feelings, behavior or personality (“lack of insight” or anosognosia)
  • Abuse of substances like alcohol or drugs 
  • Multiple physical ailments without obvious causes (headaches, stomach aches, vague and ongoing “aches and pains”) 
  • Thinking about suicide
  • Inability to carry out daily activities or handle typical problems and stress
  • Intense fear of weight gain or concern with appearance (mostly in adolescents)
  • Signs of self-harm (cutting, burning, etc.)

Some managers may want to avoid residents who experience these mental health challenges but keep in mind that those residents we refer to as “special,” “difficult,” or “challenging” need our support more today than ever. We must also be mindful of how we interact with them and what we say to them.

What to say

mental health challenges

Knowing the right thing to say to someone with a mental health crisis can be very difficult. You may not have to say anything. Just listen. Be sure to support instead of criticize and encourage the resident instead of punishing them and be empathetic to what they are experiencing. Here are a few things NAMI suggests:

  • “You don’t seem like yourself. What’s going on?”
  • I’ve noticed you [seem down, are sleeping more, etc.]. I’m here if you need to talk.” 
  • “You’re not alone.”

Remember, listening is essential!

We manage our properties like we are superheroes, but we are not. The interaction and outcome with the individuals living with mental illness will not always be what we expect. Educating ourselves is the key to making a difference. So continue to do your best, and let’s keep the conversation going.

Mental Health Challenges Resources

If you or someone you know needs help, several resources are available. The following is a list from Mental Health America.

  • The 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline. Simply dial 988 24/7/365.
  • The previous number for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 is still available.
  • Disaster Distress Helpline: for anyone experiencing emotional #distress related to natural or human-caused disasters. Call or text 1-800-985-5990 24/7/365.
  • Crisis Text Line: Text MHA to 741741 to connect with a trained Crisis Counselor 24/7.
  • The Trevor Project: A national 24-hour, toll-free confidential suicide hotline for LGBTQ youth. Call 1-866-488-7386 or text START to 678678.
  • Trans Lifeline: A peer support service run by trans people for trans and questioning callers. Call 877-565-8860 for US and 877-330-6366 for Canada.
  • Dial 2-1-1: Assistance Finding Food, Paying For Housing Bills, Accessing Free Childcare, Or Other Essential Services, Visit 211.Org Or Dial 211 To Speak To Someone Who Can Help. Run By The United Way.
  • National Domestic Violence Hotline: For Any Victims And Survivors Who Need Support, Call 1-800-799-7233 or 1-800-799-7233 for TTY, or if you’re unable to speak safely, you can log onto thehotline.org or text LOVEIS to 22522.
  • StrongHearts Native Helpline: Call 1-844-762-8483. The StrongHearts Native Helpline Is A Confidential And Anonymous Culturally-Appropriate Domestic Violence And Dating Violence Helpline For Native Americans, Available Every Day From 7 A.m. To 10 P.m. CT.
  • The National Sexual Assault Telephone Hotline: Call 800.656.HOPE (4673) To Be Connected With A Trained Staff Member From A Sexual Assault Service Provider In Your Area.
  • Caregiver Help Desk: Contact Caregiver Action Network’s Care Support Team By Dialing 855-227-3640. Staffed by caregiving experts, the Help Desk helps you find the right information you need to help you navigate your complex caregiving challenges. Caregiving experts are available 8:00 AM – 7:00 PM ET.
  • The Partnership For Drug-Free Kids Helpline: Call 1-855-378-4373 if you are having difficulty accessing support for your family, or a loved one struggling with addiction faces care or treatment challenges resulting from COVID-19 circumstances, the Partnership for Drug-free Kids’ specialists can guide you. Support is available in English and Spanish, from 9:00 am -midnight ET weekdays and noon-5:00pm ET on weekends.
  • Physician Support Line: The Physician Support Line Is Available At 1-888-409-0141 Every Day From 8:00 AM – 1:00 AM ET. Physician Support Line Is A National, Free, And Confidential Support Line Service Made Up Of 600+ Volunteer Psychiatrists To Provide Peer Support For Other Physicians And American Medical Students.


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