The link between money and mental health is long-established. For many people, the impact of COVID19 has exacerbated both. Money and Mental Health, a charity set up by “Moneysaving Expert” Martin Lewis is advocating for greater support to be offered to people experiencing mental health issues in the wake of COVID19.
What the charity wants to see
The charity is advocating for people receiving treatment for problems to be routinely asked about their finances as part of their treatment plan. It believes that this is the best way to ensure that highly vulnerable people can get help as soon as they need it.
In addition to medical and mental health professionals proactively asking about a patient’s financial situation, the charity wants key service providers to work to identify customers who may be struggling. This has obvious relevance for financial-services companies and energy companies. It also has significance for government organisations such as HMRC and local councils, both of which have come under fire for their treatment of vulnerable people.
The background to their position
With funding from Capital One UK, Money and Mental Health commissioned a survey of more than 5,000 people with lived experience of a mental health problem and 1,000 people without. Its aim was to provide “a state-of-the-nation snapshot of the financial and mental wellbeing of people across the UK during the pandemic.”
The resulting report painted a clear picture of mental health issues exacerbating financial ones. For example, 25% of people with problems have no savings that they could use for an urgent or emergency expense, as compared to 18% of people without.
Similarly, 26% of people with mental health problems have relied on credit or borrowing to cover everyday spending such as on food or heating versus 11% of people without problems. This reliance on credit is unsurprising given that 46%) of people with a mental health problem agreed with the statement, “I can’t afford to regularly save money”, as compared to 33% of people without mental health problems.
In other words, money worries are not unique to people with mental health issues (or vice versa). This is, however, consistent evidence that people with mental health issues have more problems with money than people without. The correlation does not explain whether the mental-health issues lead to greater problems with money or vice versa, or whether they go in tandem. It merely highlights that the link exists.
What sort of help is available?
In principle, the UK has an extensive support network with both great breadth and great depth of services. In practice, these services tend to be stretched even at the best of times and now is not the best of times. This means that what’s available in theory may be very different to what, if anything, is available in practice. Furthermore, as the situation currently stands, a person’s ability to access any help at all is very likely to depend on their ability to access the internet.
With that said, there are numerous options available. This means that any intervention can be tailored to suit a person’s individual situation. For example, some people may simply need advice on how to claim benefits. Others might need help learning basic financial-management skills.
Some people might need the help of a mental-health “breathing space” from debt and debt action. Others might need help addressing their mental-health issues so they can address other aspects of their lives. Some may need help addressing the root cause of their situation. Realistically, many people will probably need help of various sorts. The challenge will be delivering it despite the financial and practical impact of COVID19.
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