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Stable and Safe Housing

illustration of people moving boxes and other items into a house

Housing is more than just protection from the outdoor elements. Safe and stable housing is a basic need, and it can be difficult or impossible to care for your mental health if that need is not met.

Stable Housing

Stable (or secure) housing means that you aren’t living in uncertainty about your housing situation and generally have a choice over when to move. The opposite of this – housing instability – can mean you’re facing a number of different challenges, like struggling to pay rent, overcrowding in shelters, moving frequently, or spending most of your income on housing.

If you face the possibility of homelessness or move spaces frequently, the stress and anxiety of those situations can wear on you after a while, especially if you’re moving without much notice. Frequent moves also make it hard to develop routines and connections to your local community, which are beneficial for mental health. For many people, not having a true “home base” to consistently return to can leave them feeling distressed, disconnected, or isolated.

Psychological Safety

Only about 15% of adults in the U.S. live alone – meaning most people share living space with family members, roommates, or others. Small disagreements among household members are totally normal, but being scared of the people you live with might mean you’re in a problematic or abusive situation. The location of your housing can also play a role if you are feeling unsafe. Living in an unsafe neighborhood not only affects physical safety but can also impact mental health. Neighborhoods are places where you should be able to build a social network – places to help mental health thrive. An unsafe neighborhood can limit your ability to connect with others and find community.

Experiencing – or even witnessing – physical, emotional, or psychological abuse is traumatic. It can have long-lasting effects on your mental health and lead to conditions like depression, anxiety, or PTSD. New research shows that women who have experienced domestic abuse have three times the risk of developing a mental health condition compared with those who have not. Experiencing abuse is never your fault. You deserve to feel safe.

  • Tell someone you trust. Feeling unsafe at home is a big burden to carry alone – sharing with someone can help you feel like you have a safety net.
  • Find another place to feel like home. Get familiar with a community center, cafe, place of worship, or friend’s home so that you have a place of comfort. If you are scared for your safety or experiencing abuse, it is important to remove yourself from the situation. You can call the domestic violence hotline at 800-799-7233 or visit to locate a shelter near you. Call 911 if you are in immediate danger and cannot remove yourself from your home to seek help.

Potential Safety Hazards

Your home doesn’t need to be perfectly tidy, but some house basics are essential for your safety. Your living space shouldn’t have the potential to cause health issues – exposure to things like mold, toxic chemicals, and uncleaned animal mess puts you at risk of physical and mental health challenges. A hoarding condition can create such circumstances that put everyone living within the home at risk.

It’s also important to think through safe storage of potential dangers like weapons and addictive substances, especially if you or someone in the home has thoughts of suicide. Over half of the nation’s deaths by suicide involve a firearm, and safe storage (and proactive policies) can help lower this rate. If you’re struggling to control your substance use, you may want to get rid of those substances in your home altogether to avoid temptation. If they belong to someone else, you could ask them to keep drug(s) or alcohol out of sight or locked away.

  • Determine who is responsible for fixing housing-related hazards. They may be your responsibility or the responsibility of a landlord, building owner, or town/municipality.
  • Have a professional take care of safety hazards. Once you’ve identified who is responsible for fixing hazards, make sure a qualified professional is there to check it out or make repairs.
  • Add friction between you and dangerous objects and/or substances. This could look like removing items from your home, locking them up so they are harder to access, or putting other safeguards in place to keep you from engaging in the behavior you want to change. Making it harder to act on risky decisions is powerful harm reduction.

Having safe, stable, and healthy home conditions set the foundation for achieving and maintaining good mental health. If you’re taking steps to improve your housing situation but are still struggling with your mental health, you may be experiencing signs of a mental health condition – take a free, private screening at to help you figure out what is going on and determine next steps.

Take a mental health test

Online screening is one of the quickest and easiest ways to determine whether you are experiencing symptoms of a mental health condition.

See more Mental Health Month resources

Learn more about how your surroundings and environment impact your mental health.

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