“It's Important to be Proud of the Place You Live In”: Housing Problems and Preferences of Psychiatric Survivors


  • Cheryl Forchuk, RN, PhD, University of Western Ontario/Lawson Health Research Institute, London, ON, Canada; Geoffrey Nelson, PhD, Wilfrid Laurier University, Waterloo, ON, Canada; and G. Brent Hall, PhD, University of Waterloo, Waterloo, ON, Canada.

Author contact: cforchuk@uwo.ca, with a copy to Editor: mary@artwindows.com


TOPIC. It is important to understand housing and mental health issues from the perspective of psychiatric survivors. This paper reports findings from a series of focus group meetings held with survivors of mental illness to address issues concerning housing preferences and housing needs.

METHODS. The discussions were recorded, transcribed, and analyzed using an ethnographic method of analysis. The themes that emerged related to oppression, social networks and social supports, housing conditions, poverty and finances, and accessing services. Participants described the ongoing stigma, discrimination, and poverty that reduced their access to safe, adequate housing.

FINDINGS. They preferred independent housing where supports would be available as needed. Participants described the dilemma of having to choose between the housing they wanted and the supports they needed, since supports were often contingent upon living in a less desirable housing situation.

CONCLUSIONS. Nurses and other mental healthcare workers need to be aware of these issues for discharge planning, community support, and ongoing advocacy. The survivor voices need to be heard by decision-makers at various levels of government in order for housing policy to become more receptive to their realities.