Nikki Bond, Interim Head of Research and Policy, Money and Mental Health Policy Institute

It’s time to join up money advice and mental health support during the cost-of-living crisis

21 July 2023

  • This week, we’ve launched our latest report, Breaking the cycle.
  • The report shows that people with recent mental health problems are three times more likely to be behind on at least one key payment – like rent, energy bills or credit cards – compared to people without mental health problems.
  • We’re calling on the government to fund joined-up money advice services within NHS Talking Therapies.
  • This small change could double recovery rates for people with debt and depression — and help an extra 27,000 people recover from mental health problems each year.

One of the most common things we hear from our Research Community members is: “I wish someone had asked me about my finances when I was struggling with my mental health”. 

In particular, people often tell us that if they’d been offered help with their finances sooner, it could have helped them avoid serious money issues down the line — and that this, in turn, would have made it easier for them to recover from mental health problems.

We’ve heard countless stories of people navigating terrifying debt issues alone while dealing with a tough period of depression or coming home from a psychiatric hospital only to find a pile of unpaid bills to deal with. 

These experiences have led us to publish our latest report – Breaking the Cycle – which recognises the moment when people reach out for support from health professionals – as a crucial opportunity to identify those experiencing financial difficulties and intervene.

People with mental health problems are among the hardest hit by rising costs

The link between people’s mental health and financial problems is not a secret. Last month we carried out national polling, which showed that people with mental health problems are three times more likely to be behind on crucial payments, such as energy bills or rent, than those without mental health problems. And astonishingly, nearly half of those behind on one or more bills have experienced mental health problems. 

The impact of the rising costs on the well-being of people with mental health problems is huge. 

Those of us with mental health problems are nearly three times as likely to have felt anxious, unable to cope, or filled with dread about receiving communications from our creditors over the last three months. The weight of financial strain can heighten the existing challenges that people with mental health problems face – leaving them distressed and overwhelmed- exacerbating their mental health problems and delaying recovery.

Hiding in plain sight?

Many people who are struggling are missing out on critical support – but it doesn’t have to be this way. Money advice is an effective solution to support people to resolve financial difficulties. Yet, far too many people fail to receive help before their problems become entrenched. Shockingly, half of those struggling to make payments and who are behind on one or more bill have not received any support with their finances in the last two years. 

“I didn’t realise how much my mental health affected my finances and vice versa. I lived for years in shame and horrific anxiety about money which caused my mental health to spiral. I thought there was no help out there for me and I didn’t want to be alive, as I couldn’t see a way out of my money troubles.” Expert by experience

Thankfully, many people behind on payments are in contact with healthcare services about their mental health. Almost half of those currently behind on one or more bills have been in touch with primary care services, such as their GP, about their mental health, and two in ten have started talking therapy or counselling through the NHS.

A win-win situation

That’s why we’ve long been campaigning for mental health professionals to routinely ask people about money worries so that they can link people up with appropriate support services. Now we’re calling on the government to urgently commit to funding integrated money advice services within the NHS Talking Therapies program. This would mean that anyone accessing early help for mental health problems would be routinely asked about money worries and referred to money advice services which would reach out to help.

Supporting people with mental health problems with their finances is a win-win situation. Our research found that a combined service could see recovery rates for people with depression and financial difficulties more than double, and it would save the government £144 million each year in England alone. 

By targeting money advice services to the people who need it early on in their experience of mental health problems, we can ease the pressure people are under and allow them to focus their energy and efforts on recovery. Let’s join up money advice and mental health support – and help tens of thousands more people recover from mental health problems every year.