Navigating through the welfare system can be difficult and stressful even at the best of times. Yet for those who have a serious mental illness, the anxieties can be even greater and the risk to their health and wellbeing far more pressing.
This has been a personal passion of mine for many years. I started my career preaching that a company’s job was to make money; our job to stop them. Yet after meeting many mental health workers and those with mental health issues, I realised how crucial it is that we help and protect those can’t always take responsibility for themselves.
Sadly financial problems and mental health are a marriage made in hell. Each ride off the back of the other. The net result is that a hugely disproportionate number of people with mental health problems face severe debt crisis. Not just because poor money management, impulse and emotional control are often symptoms of mental health problems – but because these health issues hit income too.
For too many people, mental illness and debt come together in a spiral of distress that can carry a heavy cost. Therefore it is crucial we examine all elements to ensure that someone with temporary mental health problems doesn’t experience permanent financial distress. That’s why access to the right advice and support is critical when people are struggling to deal with life itself.
That’s why I’m delighted to support the subject raised by the Centre for Mental Health. Its view that welfare advice should be a standard feature of any good mental health service is tough to disagree with. Not only is high quality welfare advice good for mental health service users, in the long run it could end up saving the NHS, and the country, money.
More importantly, it increases options and gives practical solutions for dealing with the problem – such as preventing expensive hospital admissions and helping people keep their homes. In some cases it may be possible to prevent relapses of mental illness and stop the spiral of debt and ill health from getting out of control.
It’s important every mental health service considers the financial impact of mental health. It should be seen as a core issue, not an add-on, as it is at the centre of life’s functionality.
Breaking the link between mental illness and debt will make a dramatic difference to people’s lives.
This blog is Martin’s foreword to the Centre for Mental Health’s new "Welfare advice for people who use mental health services" report – read the full report.
- MoneySavingExpert.com’s Mental Health and Debt Guide