From mental health problems to substance abuse, people can face a number of problems in their lifetime.

While there are always services available to help people with difficult issues they may face, the unfortunate truth is some people have multiple issues, and a combination of these issues can lead to what is known as having complex needs.

What are complex needs?

Rather than referring to a person’s specific characteristics, complex needs is a term used to refer to a person who is understood to have multiple issues in their life that result in having a profound effect on one’s well-being and ability to function in society.

These issues encompass all manner of problems, such as those concerning mental health and substance addictions.

Developmental issues can also be a large factor, particularly in children who are still developing.

Complex needs can also stem from an involvement in the Criminal Justice system, as well as difficulties in finding and maintaining housing.

Who can have complex needs?

Due to the individualistic nature of complex needs and that each need is based on personal circumstances, it is difficult to determine the exact number of people affected.

This becomes even more difficult because of the way that many people can move across a spectrum over time, meaning people can have varying severities at different points in their life.

Furthermore, people of any age can have complex needs. Children with a combination of development and mental health issues can be deemed to have it, while an adult with a substance abuse who has faced time in court or jail could equally be referred to as having complex needs.

Elderly people can also be affected, particularly regarding mental health problems common amongst people in their later stages of life, such as dementia.

Mental health problems like dementia can greatly affect one’s ability to perform daily tasks, look after oneself and also greatly limit a person’s ability to interact with other people.

These combined issues result in someone with dementia falling under the category of having complex needs.

Difficulties accessing help

As a result of these problems, people with complex needs often require aid in the form of services and support from the government and community organisations.

However, this support can sometimes be difficult to obtain.

One primary reason is that many systems can be complex to navigate. Mental problems in individuals can only heighten the situation, and when a large number of people with complex needs often have a very small or even non-existent support network of friends and family, finding help can sometimes be a challenging task.

Support for housing can also be troublesome due to an often lack of safe and affordable properties which can lead to homelessness and instability.

Getting help with complex needs

So, what can be done to help people who have complex needs?

There are many services in place, but as mentioned, accessing them can sometimes be difficult. Many local community services can help put you in contact with people who can help assess you or a loved one if you believe help is required.

If previous services and attempts at help are unsuccessful, there is sometimes the option to apply for the Multiple and Complex Needs Initiative service, which is specialised in helping those with complex needs.

Respite care is also an option for carers who may be looking after a child or elderly individual with complex needs.

While only temporary, a brief respite can benefit both parties if friends and family are unable to provide support during difficult times.