Kate Langston, Intern, Money and Mental Health

Introducing: Kate Langston

It’s the end of my first week at the Money and Mental Health Policy Institute and I can honestly say I have enjoyed every minute. To many, my decision to leave a career in political journalism to take up a six-month internship at a think tank looked like an odd move. But from the minute I walked into the Money and Mental Health office for my interview I knew this was an organisation I wanted to be part of. Not only is the charity committed to ending a serious and potentially devastating social problem, but its drive to achieve this by championing realistic, meaningful solutions is both credible and inspiring.

My personal experience

One of my key motivations for applying to the Money and Mental Health internship was a desire to improve the support available to those with mental health problems.

Despite growing up with a basic understanding of mental illness, and even having friends and loved ones who had struggled with poor mental health, it was only when I became ill myself while at university that I truly began to appreciate the staggering breadth of ways in which poor mental health can impact a person’s ability to reason and act.

While I consider myself extremely lucky that I was able to rely on my family to support me both emotionally and financially through my time of need, I have since met many other people who have not had that same safety net. Too often, this has left them vulnerable to financial difficulties they might otherwise have avoided, with serious consequences for their health and wellbeing.

In many cases, I am convinced the challenges they faced could have been avoided if the right tools and interventions were made available to them at the right time. One of the things that instantly stood out to me when I first learned about the Money and Mental Health Policy Institute was its focus on pragmatic solutions. Whether it’s apps to curb unhealthy spending habits, or placing greater responsibility on lenders and retailers to protect vulnerable customers, I have little doubt that if some of the people I know had access to the kind of innovative services being explored by the Money and Mental Health team it would have made a significant difference to their lives.

Mental health and politics

Prior to starting this internship I worked as a lobby correspondent for regional newspapers. In the two and a half years that I worked in Westminster I lost track of the number of times I have reported on pledges by the Government or other organisations to improve services for people with mental health problems.

Such commitments are admirable, but progress toward achieving anything like parity of esteem between mental and physical health across the public and private sector has been frustratingly slow. The reasons for this delay are complex, but in my experience a lack of support or political will is not one of them. It is sadly a reality of life that competing demands for funding and attention mean that even vital issues like mental health can get overlooked or pushed down the political and social agenda. This is where an organisation like Money and Mental Health comes in.

Often it falls to someone else outside the bubble to shout up for a cause and make sure it remains a priority for key decision makers. By producing engaging research on the relationship between mental health problems and financial difficulty, Money and Mental Health is not only raising awareness of the issue, but is able to put forward workable solutions and make a compelling case for reform.

Taking the leap

I had been keeping an eye out for opportunities to get more involved in public affairs and campaigning when I spotted the Money and Mental Health internship. I was impressed by the amount that the organisation had achieved in the two years since it launched, and excited by the fact that it offered experience across a broad range of roles, and leapt at the opportunity to apply.

I know the team has big plans for the year ahead and I am keen to use my time here to learn as much as I can about how these ambitious goals can be achieved. I also hope to get a clearer picture of where my existing skills can be put to best use, and which skills I will need to build on in order to both further my career, and make my own contribution to improving support for people with mental health problems.