Chris Lees, Research Officer, Money and Mental Health

Introducing: Chris Lees

14 May 2020

These aren’t normal times. I’ve recently joined Money and Mental Health as a Research Officer and starting a new job during lockdown has been strange – meeting my colleagues over video chat rather than in person and missing out on the usual tour around the office. Despite the circumstances, the amazing team at Money and Mental Health have helped me settle in. But I am lucky, not everyone is able to jump straight into a new job and many people across the country are having to deal with a loss in income.

Life in a time of Corona

The current coronavirus crisis has highlighted how damaging the link between mental health and financial difficulty can be – as well as the importance of the work that Money and Mental Health does. Many people who struggle to manage their mental health or finances rely on external networks to support them (from mental health specialists and money advice services, to friends and family), and with the majority of the country confined to their own homes – except for exercise or essential shopping – people are finding the situation increasingly difficult. 

Money and Mental Health has begun to explore how the crisis is affecting those with mental health and money problems, and what can be done to help support people at this time.

Mental Health Accessible

Part of my role will be focused on helping to develop Money and Mental Health’s Mental Health Accessible standards, working with essential services providers to make their offerings more accessible for those of us with a mental health problem. Accessing services, such as banking, broadband and energy, can be particularly difficult for people with mental health problems, who may struggle to remember important details, like passwords and PINs, or have difficulty using the phone. While accessibility has come a long way over the last few years, there are still steps to be taken to ensure that people who have mental health problems are included. 

With ‘normal’ life being put on hold, it is important that essential services providers are able to support those of us with a mental health problem. Our urgent Covid-19 customer support standards provide firms with practical guidance to help them do this. I am looking forward to hearing from firms about how they are adapting to help their customers, and exploring how they could benefit from the Mental Health Accessible programme in future.

Listening to people

I spent the last two years working as a pollster at Survation, which means I’ve explored public attitudes on a range of issues. Some of the most interesting projects I worked on were around mental health or money problems – such as surveying new mothers about mental health provisions or understanding how workers feel the economy impacts them. 

Before Survation, I worked at the think tank British Future and was involved in the National Conversation – which was the biggest public consultation on immigration ever undertaken in the UK. From this I learnt about the importance of listening to the public when creating new policy ideas, especially from those who will be impacted most. That’s why the Money and Mental Health Research Community is so important: it is an essential resource in understanding the lived experience of those with mental health and money problems. As a researcher I am excited to start surveying our experts by experience and using their insights to come up with new solutions. If the Research Community sounds like something you would want to be part of, you can sign up here.

Mental health has been close to my heart for some time, and I have seen how money troubles can affect those with mental health problems. I am aware of the importance of this job in our current circumstances, and I look forward to helping people who have a mental health or money problem.