Katie is our Dual Diagnosis Worker at The Passage. For Mental Health Awareness Week, we spoke to her about how she helps clients at The Passage.
What were you doing before joining The Passage? Before coming to The Passage, I worked in a temporary accommodation hostel in Belfast, supporting residents who were dealing with heroin use and related mental health problems. I felt that the experiences and skills that I developed in this challenging role in Belfast made me a perfect fit for the dual diagnosis role at The Passage and here I am.
What does a day in the life of your role look like? The mental health team receives referrals from Customer Service Advisors in the Rough Sleepers team, as they make the initial assessments of rough sleepers to see what specialist support is required.
My manager, Roseina, will then delegate the different cases based on the client’s individual circumstances. Each member of the mental health team has a different focus: Caroline deals with substance misuse, Bill covers mental health, and I am able to bring perspective from both areas.
Once we have been allocated a client, we will arrange a follow-up meeting, which depending on what stage they are in their journey – will focus on harm reduction or straightforward catch ups to check in on them at regular intervals.
A new addition to our timetable which caters for people who may still be in the very early stages of seeking support, would be an open invitation to attend our Breakfast Club where the conversation of mental health/addiction is approached over breakfast in a psychologically informed environment, without pressure.
How do you approach an initial conversation with an entrenched rough sleeper? I would make sure to use open-ended questions to encourage the client to share as much as possible about their circumstances in a way that they feel comfortable – as opposed to using closed questions which may inadvertently limit responses.
I also focus on motivational interviewing techniques as this enables the client to look forwards at what they want to achieve 3/6/9 months down the line and what obstacles they feel may be preventing them – this is often heavily linked to a cycle of drinking, addiction, and sleeping on the streets.
To help clients to understand and be more inclined to get involved with this strategy, I will ask them to draw it out. I do this by providing them with a drawing of a stick man on one end of a path facing a hole. The client will then write or draw out all of the obstacles that might be taking up space in the hole and blocking them from reaching the other side of the path on the other end of the hole. This is a positive way of encouraging discussion and also finding potential solutions for the obstacles, such as being linked in to various services, which provides a ‘bridge’ to go over the hole and forward into the next 3-6-9 months.
What have you got planned for Mental Health Awareness Week? We have incorporated mindfulness into our Breakfast Club this week. Mindfulness is really important as it helps people to ground themselves and take time to focus on the present moment. We will be linking this to the theme of nature by encouraging clients to explore with us during calming walks outside. It is that much easier to remind yourself of the bigger picture when you are in brighter surroundings.
The Passage are grateful to Perrigo Charitable Foundation for helping to fund Katie’s role.