Adenike Adebiyi, External Affairs Intern, Money and Mental Health.

Introducing: Adenike Adebiyi

12 February 2019

Growing up, I heard much about the importance of our mental life. At home, at church and at school, I learnt the mind was valuable for everything from spirituality and ethics to education and intelligence. So much about the life of the mind, rarely ever about the health of the mind, both of which are crucially interdependent. It wasn’t until I experienced depression and anxiety myself at university, that I realised how terribly undervalued mental health was, both personally and socially.

Fast forward a few years later, I’m in my third week at the Money and Mental Health Policy Institute as an External Affairs intern, and I couldn’t imagine a more apt organisation to begin my professional career!

My money and mental health

Interrupting my university studies to pursue recovery was one of the most difficult and yet necessary decisions I’ve had to make in my life. At the beginning of my year out, I struggled to secure a full-time job because of depression, but not being able to find work made me even more depressed. And when I eventually secured work, I was so overdrawn financially and emotionally at one point that I had to call in sick. I was “too ill to work, too broke not to” (to borrow the name of a recent Money and Mental Health report).

Looking back, I couldn’t have overcome depression without the support of my church, friends and family. But I also have my university to thank for signposting me to helpful tools and resources, from cognitive behavioural therapy, to group workshops on ‘challenging unhelpful thinking habits’. Even exam season was made less daunting when I attended morning ‘calm your brain and have a croissant’ sessions for some yummy mindfulness! I also had a go at using MUSE headphones with mindfulness meditations on the Headspace app. In light of the recent wave of headlines on the harmful effects of technology and social media, it’s refreshing to see how it can be used for good.

The more sessions and workshops on mental health I attended, the more I came to actually believe the well intended “you’re not alone” cliche often quoted during times when the opposite feels true. The most profound of these realisations came when I saw university teaching staff attending some of those workshops, too. It was then that I saw that mental health problems are more common than our social silence about them in the past might suggest. I’ve also since had people open up to me about their mental health and related financial struggles, so it’s not a ‘they/them’ issue, it’s an ‘us/all’ issue.

Making systemic change

What excites me most about joining Money and Mental Health is the charity’s commitment to addressing the link between both issues at a systemic level, which resonates deeply with my appetite for social justice. Business does not have to be business as usual where it proves detrimental to wellbeing. Fixing flawed social frameworks helps individuals within them to flourish.

Changing the status quo at policy level is no small task, which explains why I’ve done so much in the few weeks I’ve been here that it feels as if it’s been longer (in a good way, of course)! In my first week, I was doing everything from updating the team on the latest headlines, to meeting with MPs in Portcullis House (so fancy) and discussing the next steps in our Stop the Debt Threats campaign. I also found myself sitting next to the Chairman of the Financial Conduct Authority at our recent event about using personal financial data to help people with mental health problems, and chatting to financial services and health professionals about the challenges and opportunities that this poses. Fascinating stuff!

So far, I’ve been warmed by the level of dedication the team bring to their work at Money and Mental Health. Every day I come into work, I’m reminded that there is help and there is hope for everyone struggling with mental health and finances. And I’m excited to contribute to Money and Mental Health’s efforts to help more people come to believe this too!