Juno Bhardwaj Shah, External Affairs Intern, Money and Mental Health

Reflecting on my time at Money and Mental Health

14 August 2020

When I started interning at Money and Mental Health, just over six months ago, I was ecstatic to join an organisation that was working so tirelessly to make life better for people with mental health problems. I confess that, despite having cared for individuals with mental health problems, the link between mental health and financial difficulty was not something that I’d really thought about before I applied – but working here has enlightened me to the pervasive nature of a problem that gets far less coverage than it deserves.

The world is drastically different from the one that I started my internship in. Back then, who could have predicted that we’d be in the middle of a global pandemic, had experienced a nationwide lockdown, and be currently facing the biggest recession on record – certainly not me. So, in these tumultuous times, I wanted to look back on a few things that I’ve learnt during my time here.

A small team making a big difference

One of the things that struck me during my first day at Money and Mental Health was the dedication and passion of every single member of the team. Being part of a small team, I’m glad that I was able to hit the ground running. In my first week, I helped with the launch of the Need to Know, a guide to help creditors better support customers with mental health problems. From there – with a brief pause as we all adapted to an unexpected pandemic – we published research on how the outbreak had affected the income of people with mental health problems, continued our push to Stop the #DebtThreats, and launched more research on online gambling and free debt advice. It’s a testament to the entire team that so much has been accomplished during such turbulence; this small team truly is mighty. I’m enormously thankful to have been able to have played a part in so many incredible campaigns, events and report launches.

Listening to learn

I think we all appreciate a good listener. Money and Mental Health’s work is centred around listening to people with mental health problems and centring their work around their most pressing concerns. One of the aspects of my role that I’m most grateful for is being able to hear the stories of Research Community members – individuals with lived experience of mental health problems – who volunteer to help our campaign and report launches. The courage and resilience of the huge number of people that share their thoughts and stories with us is astounding. From looking at how Covid-19  has affected people’s access to mental health services as well as their access to shopping, I’ve really appreciated the opportunity to understand some of the concerns that people with mental health problems face. This ever-present commitment to listening, learning and creating practical change makes Money and Mental Health’s work all the more important.                          

Change is happening

It can often feel like things never change – and that there’s no real political will to shake things up. As we watch and read about the shameful injustices that occur on a daily basis, it’s a mindset that it is easy to get caught up in. However, while at Money and Mental Health, I’ve become more hopeful of our politicians. I’ve seen MPs of all stripes passionately engage with issues such as the benefits system, debt and online gambling, doing what feels like their best to improve the lives of their constituents and the country. From Select Committee hearings to more obscure debates, there’s a lot of political activity that doesn’t make the headlines. Seeing MPs working on the nitty-gritty of policymaking, and engaging with Money and Mental Health’s work, makes me optimistic that things are changing for the better in this space. From the government’s renewed commitment to the Breathing Space debt respite scheme, to our continuing work to make essential services, like banks, more accessible to those of us with mental health problems, real change is being made.

Leaving Money and Mental Health

One of the things that’s really stuck with me during my time here, is that making a difference comes in so many forms. For me personally, I began to appreciate how doing things – both big and small – from updating databases, writing blogs, creating social media content and brainstorming report launch ideas were all valuable in one way or another. But on a wider level, from the brilliant efforts of our team, the engagement of politicians and firms, the desire to help of those who signed up to our Professional Network, to everyone who signed our Stop the #DebtThreats petition, it really struck me just how many people are fighting this vital fight.

I’m sad to have left Money and Mental Health but my time here will stay with me forever. I’ve learnt so much, both personally and professionally, and I’m thankful to have had this opportunity. In a post-coronavirus landscape, the need to break the link between mental health problems and financial difficulty is greater than ever. As I start a new chapter, I’ll always remember the incredible culture and values demonstrated by the organisation and will continue to follow Money and Mental Health’s journey as they strive to create a more just society.