‘It has changed my opinion on mental health’ ­– Stevenage women speak up in host families appeal

Mary Mitchell and Rose Hamilton both act as host families in Stevenage for people with mental health

Mary Mitchell and Rose Hamilton both act as host families in Stevenage for people with mental health problems. - Credit: Archant

Two Stevenage women have spoken about providing a temporary home for people with mental health problems as part of an appeal for more families to come forward.

Mary Mitchell decided to put herself forward after retiring as a receptionist at Bedwell Medical Centre and seeing a leaflet looking for ‘host families’.

The role helps prevent individuals suffering from conditions including anxiety and depression from going into hospital, as well as offering a halfway house after they have been released.

Families such as Mary’s are paid £600 a week for providing the service.

“It has changed my opinion of mental health because you realise it can affect anyone irrespective of age or status,” said the 67-year-old.


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“The most important thing is to share your home and, when they are ready, get them involved in everyday activities like making the bed, shopping and washing.

“My children were initially a bit worried because you have an image of people with mental health problems being dangerous but they are far more likely to be a danger to themselves than you.”

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Rose Hamilton has hosted around 10 people. The 64-year-old said: “It can be quite a step for someone coming from a hospital ward and you need to give them time to adapt. I give people the space they need but let them know I am here.

“I even played golf with one gentleman to help him get out and about.

“It’s nice to see people come out of themselves and know you’ve contributed to that in some small way.”

The Hertfordshire Partnership University NHS Foundation Trust is looking for more families to help meet an increase in demand.

Crisis assessment and treatment team manager Sarah Biggs said: “We screen all the clients to make sure they are suitable for a host family and a support worker visits on a daily basis.

“We’re keen to hear from more families across the county.

“The main criteria are that hosts are home based and don’t have any children living at home.”

If you are interested in becoming involved call 07768 131413 or email host.families@hertspartsft.nhs.uk.

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