Katrina Gaffney, External Affairs Intern, Money and Mental Health

Introducing Katrina Gaffney

14 August 2019

I am so excited to be joining Money and Mental Health as its new External Affairs Intern. I have always felt strongly that mental health is an important issue but only recently have I started to understand some of the ways in which mental health problems intersect with finance. Now that I have seen some of the effects that mental health problems can have on your finances, and the effects that financial difficulties can have on mental health, it seems apparent to me that society needs to make some changes. 

Mental health in society

Before joining Money and Mental Health, I spent some time volunteering with the Time To Change campaign. In this role, I focused on the work that different employers are doing to raise awareness of mental health in the workplace and support their employees. This experience really altered my own approach to mental health: it made me realise that mental health problems do not exist in a vacuum and that they can be seriously exacerbated by certain, avoidable circumstances.  

If we want to properly support people experiencing mental health problems (and the statistics suggest one in four of us will experience mental health problems), then we need to be thinking about some of the changes that governments, essential service providers and healthcare professionals could make to allow people to feel more in control of their mental health and finances. The brilliant thing is that small changes to how we operate can make a big difference. Not to mention that a lot of the changes that Money and Mental Health suggest would ultimately improve things for everyone – for example their Mental Health Accessible standards could make contacting essential services easier for all customers. 

Sometimes it can feel like the world is designed to work best for people who think and behave in a certain way. This has always been something I have wanted to help change but as a young person just out of university, I wasn’t initially sure how I could help. 

A young intern’s experience with money and mental health

Finding an internship at a charity whose goals you feel passionate about, where you can build up your skills and experience, and get paid the London Living Wage can seem like an impossible task. I feel really lucky to have found one with Money and Mental Health. 

Unfortunately, all too often interns are underpaid (or sometimes they’re not paid at all!), and while many of us might be happy to work for a cause we care about for nothing in theory, the reality is that bills need to be paid. It seems to me that the culture of unpaid internships which persists, particularly in certain industries, is something which can negatively impact young people’s mental health. The stress of trying to find paid work around an internship, or feeling like you will never be able to progress with your dreams, because you can’t afford to take on unpaid work can take its toll. The opportunity offered by Money and Mental Health with its paid internship shows the importance of providing people with financial security if you want to help them manage their mental health.

Practical Improvements

I have only been at Money and Mental Health for a few days but one of the things that has really struck me is how much of its work is grounded in everyday experience. When applying for this role, I had been happy to learn about the centrality of the Research Community in the work Money and Mental Health produce. I have always believed in helping people in the way that they wanted to be helped.   

Having had the opportunity to learn more about what Money and Mental Health does and to see the team in action has shown me just how exciting and effective an organisation I’ll be joining for the next six months. Their practical policy recommendations and constructive campaigning is all about how the lives of those of us experiencing mental health problems can be made better and that’s something I am happy to be on board with.