Briefing 61: Social needs among people living with mental health difficulties

22 August 2023

Many people with long-term mental health difficulties live in poverty, face financial precarity, and lack housing security. Helping people with these and a wide range of other social needs is fundamental to good mental health support.

The NIHR Mental Health Policy Research Unit (MHPRU) at University College London (UCL) and King’s College London (KCL) reviewed research about how mental health services can best support the social needs of people living with mental health difficulties. This briefing paper summarises their findings and explores the policy implications.

The briefing finds that Individual Placement and Support employment services and Housing First support for homeless people both have robust evidence of their effectiveness in supporting people with mental health difficulties into work and homes respectively. There is also clear evidence that social security policies have a major impact on people with mental health difficulties: policies that restrict access to benefits or reduce entitlements worsen people’s mental health, and vice versa.

It also finds that there is a wealth of other social interventions, from peer support and social prescribing to money advice and skills development, that have not been well researched. These may offer similar value, but opportunity or resources for robust research or evaluation have been lacking.

We’re calling on national and local government to draw on the evidence of the benefits of social interventions and put mental health at the heart of all policies.

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