Bronwen Dalley Smith, Communications and Events Assistant for the Money and Mental Health Policy Institute, has written a guest post to tell us about the work they’re doing to support people dealing with debt and mental health problems.
Last year, nearly 600,000 people turned to StepChange Debt Charity for debt advice. That’s more than one person every minute of every day, throughout the whole of 2016. While this was StepChange’s highest yearly record to date, they were able to help.
At the Money and Mental Health Policy Institute we regularly talk to people who are getting their finances back on track with the help of StepChange Debt Charity. Yet, as a research charity exploring the link between financial difficulty and mental health, we couldn’t help but be concerned by this figure.
Half of British adults with a debt problem also have a mental health problem, so it can be assumed that nearly 300,000 of those who contacted StepChange last year were also struggling with poor mental health. The two are so closely entwined, that it is often impossible to identify which is the cause and which is the effect.
How do we break this cycle?
This is where our work comes in. Set up by Martin Lewis, founder of MoneySavingExpert.com, we’re committed to breaking the link between money and mental health problems. We conduct research and develop practical policy solutions to enable services to better support those who are currently falling through the cracks. To try and end this often destructive relationship, we’ve started by researching exactly how mental health and money problems affect one another by listening to the people who know best – those who have been there.
The members of our Research Community are people that have first-hand experience of mental health problems, whether personally or through supporting someone who does. They’re at the heart of our work. The Community informs our research by telling us exactly what trying to engage with the current financial, health and advice services is like for them, and how things could be better.
The story so far
Since we launched in spring 2016, we have listened to our Research Community and used their knowledge to shape our research, campaigns and calls for policy change – which are already starting to have national impact. We couldn’t have achieved what we have so far without the brilliant Community sharing their stories with us, or without the support of organisations like StepChange Debt Charity.
For example, in October last year StepChange supported our Stop the Charge campaign, calling for an end to the charge for the debt and mental health doctor’s note. We launched the campaign after we heard from our Community that people in financial difficulty were being charged up to £150 for a form needed by their creditors to prove they had a mental health problem.
The campaign was supported by fourteen leading mental health and advice charities, a cross-party coalition of MPs, and over 2,000 members of the public. It also secured a commitment from the Prime Minister to review the form and end the practice of charging. Bringing an end to this unfair charge will benefit thousands of people nationwide, and will be one small step towards weakening the link between financial difficulty and poor mental health.
Making our vision a reality
However, this is just a small part of a complex and intricate puzzle. We’re very lucky to have over 2,000 Community members shaping our work – but to truly make a difference, we need more. If you’ve experience of a mental health problem and want to join our fight, we’d love to welcome you on board.
Our interactive online Community platform allows members to complete quick polls, surveys and take part in focus groups. By signing up, you can pick and choose what works for you and decide what you would like to take part in.
Sharing your experience of a mental health problem with us will not only help us to understand how the UK’s systems need to improve, but it also gives you a chance to make a real difference.
Learn more about our Research Community and add your voice today.