Money and mental health – breaking up a toxic relationship

27 July 2016
By Helen Undy, Money and Mental Health Policy Institute

“Financial problems and mental health are a marriage made in hell.”

This is how Martin Lewis, the Money Saving Expert, introduced Centre for Mental Health’s 2013 report, ‘Welfare advice for people who use mental health services.’

A source of stress and worry

This report, which made the business case for welfare advice to be a standard feature of mental health services, along with the campaigning work of a number of organisations, has helped to improve the availability of financial support to people with mental health problems.

But, as the number of entries mentioning money in the ‘A Day in the Life’ project underlines, we’ve still got a lot do to break that toxic relationship between financial difficulty and mental health.

Bloggers wrote about the stress and anxiety caused by money issues, as well as the impact their mental health was having on their ability to stay on top of managing their money.

This is the focus of Money and Mental Health, the new Policy Institute set up by Martin Lewis. We aim to develop research, policies and solutions to help people with mental health problems protect themselves from financial harm, and to reduce the impact that our finances have on our mental health.

Lived experience

As part of our Money on Your Mind study, we’ve talked to nearly 5,500 people who have lived with mental health problems. The majority of respondents confirmed that their financial situation and mental health had made each other worse.

[I’m] constantly worrying about making payments. The embarrassment. Not being able to provide for my family. Constantly stressed.

More than half of the people who took part in our research told us they had fallen behind with their bills in the last year, for reasons including: mental health problems; difficulties managing their money; living on a low income; unemployment or a drop in wages and benefits.

I struggle to hold down long term stable employment. Bouts of unemployment put a massive strain on my finances.

Only by working together can we change this. So today, we’re asking for your help.

Join Our Research Panel

We’re looking for people with experience of mental health problems, or who are caring for someone who is, to join our panel of Experts by Experience.

By telling us your story, you will help shape our work and support others who may be struggling, as well as feed into research like the consultation mentioned below. We’ll ensure that government, banks, retailers, regulators, the NHS and others hear your views and concerns loud and clear.

You can sign up here, where you’ll find further information about the panel and what it does.

Tell us what you think

Finally, if you’re a policy expert or work in the retail, finance or health care sectors, we want to hear from you too. You can contribute to ‘In Control’, our consultation on regulating spending in periods of poor mental health.

93% of survey respondents with mental health problems told us that they spend more when they are unwell. This includes accessing credit they don’t want or need or buying goods and services they can’t afford.

When I am feeling unwell it’s like I lose all sense of reality. I’m living and breathing someone else’s air, spending someone else’s money.

The spiral of debt and financial difficulty that often results can cause a huge amount of harm to those affected and their families. We believe it can be prevented, and need your views on our ideas about how best to empower people to control their spending when they’re feeling unwell.

Please download the consultation paper now and let us know what you think. You can also stay up to date with our work via our professional network.

Have your say and together, we can ensure that the next time ‘A Day in the Life’ runs, fewer people have a day dominated by financial stress and worry.

* The quotes above are from Money On Your Mind, published by the Money and Mental Health Policy Institute – pages 11, 16 and 24 respectively 

Tag: Money

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