Local tradesman to ‘Sleep-Out’ for Julian House after battling mental health problems

Local, self-employed plasterer, Jon Durrant, is taking on Julian House’s Big Bath Sleep-Out for the second time on Friday 4th March to raise vital funds and awareness for the charity.

After being diagnosed with bipolar and suffering with depression and anxiety he found solace in volunteering at the charity’s hostel kitchen. He now wants to do even more to help people experiencing homelessness and poor mental health and is encouraging others to do the same.

“People who are experiencing homelessness don’t always have access to a GP or mental health services even though around 40% of them have a diagnosed mental health condition,” he said. The figure of undiagnosed mental health disorders is thought to be much higher.

After taking part in the Big Bath Sleep-Out at home in 2021, he added: “Had I been forced to sleep out another two or three nights, I would have reached a mental health state where I would have needed to be admitted into hospital again. I genuinely don’t know how homeless people cope. “

Speaking of his mental health, Jon says: “When I was admitted to the psychiatric ward of the Royal United Hospital I met a disproportionate number of homeless people also suffering from mental health issues. Meeting them really raised my awareness of the relationship between mental health and homelessness.

After I was discharged from hospital, I started to suffer from panic attacks. It was the worse physical symptoms I had ever suffered. It made me agoraphobic and housebound. I knew that I had to do something, so I started taking short bus journeys. At first it was just one stop, then two and so on. It took months to be able to take the bus to Bath.

Once I was able to get to Bath, I needed a reason to stay. I remembered the homeless people I met in hospital, and I saw that Manvers Street Hostel needed volunteer cooks, so I arranged to do a shift. The staff at the hostel were warm and friendly and after just a few weeks I looked forward to cooking for the hostel. It gave me a routine, social interaction, confidence and self-worth – all the attributes I was missing whilst I was depressed.

Through volunteering, I could see that Julian House’s service users had somewhere warm and dry in the day, somewhere to have a hot drink and meal and somewhere to wash their clothes – all the things we take for granted. The staff treated people with dignity, respect and patience. From passing people on the street – you realise that this is not always the case.”

Speaking about the event, he said: “I want to take on the Big Bath Sleep-Out again to thank Julian House for what they did for me as well as raising money and awareness. I believe that Julian House can give people the help and support to restart their lives.

I would also encourage other people to take part in the Big Bath Sleep-Out in March. Firstly, with more people attending, the event will hopefully raise much needed funds for Julian

House to provide the huge range of services they do. Secondly, I don’t think that you can even start to imagine how hard it is to be a rough sleeper until you experience just one night of how it might be.”

This year, members of the public can choose whether they’d like to join the Julian House team on Friday 4th March and sleep out in Alice Park, Bath or choose to sleep out in their homes and gardens. The event is suitable for all ages, families, friends and colleagues.

Find out more about the event and sign up here: bigbathsleepout.co.uk

The event is kindly sponsored by Unividual