Haylie Page, External Affairs Intern, Money and Mental Health
What I’ve learned from the last six months
17 February 2021
The pandemic has entirely overturned normal life. It’s been almost a year since I was in an office, I’m not sure if I can remember what it’s like getting a rush hour train at the crack of dawn and I’ve never known so many creative ways to occupy a Zoom call.
Though this year has had many moments we’d all want to forget, my time at Money and Mental Health has been something I’ve been lucky enough to cherish. The pandemic has exposed just how delicate all of our mental health and finances can be, so it has been more important than ever that Money and Mental Health exists and produces the essential work that it does.
A dream team
Going into the internship for six months, I never quite imagined there wouldn’t be an opportunity for me to go into the office and work with all of my colleagues face to face. But the role turned out to be entirely remote.
Despite the uncertainty of the world over the past six months, one thing has been for sure: Money and Mental Health is a wonderful team filled with dedicated, passionate and kind people who are absolutely committed to their work breaking the link between financial difficulty and mental health problems. This was clear from the first day as an intern, and has persisted right until my last.
My experience has shown me how an organisation can be both hardworking and impactful, while putting the wellbeing of staff at the forefront. Though the topic of mental health has increasingly made its way into mainstream discussion over the past few years, there is still more to be done. And work is an essential place to build a culture of openness and support around mental health.
Learning from lived experience
Before joining Money and Mental Health, I’d never quite realised the many ways that the incomes of those with mental health problems can be vulnerable, from online scams and shopping to the benefits system and inflexible working. But during my time here, the lived experience of members of the Research Community that forms the foundation of Money and Mental Health’s work has taught me a lot — completely changing my outlook.
For instance, we may take working from home for granted at times as the pandemic has consumed our daily lives. But for people experiencing mental health problems, flexible and remote working is a genuine need that offers the best opportunity to manage health and maintain an income. This moment is crucial, and must be the turning point to ensure that everyone is given the right to work flexibly in future, in a way that best suits them.
Furthermore, I’ll never experience the internet in the same way. Pushy marketing strategies on online stores, glamourised ‘buy now, pay later’ adverts, and adverts that follow you around the web had only been an irritating part of the internet before I joined Money and Mental Health. But I’ve since learned just how much of a problem they can be for vulnerable people. Even the smallest of these nudges can be enough for someone to experience a period of poor mental health and financial hardship. Action is needed and long overdue.
Change is here, and more is coming
It’s been a busy six months, but in the best possible way — Money and Mental Health have made huge changes to the lives of people experiencing mental health problems and financial difficulty in my short time here.
We stopped the most distressing debt threats — a move that will save thousands of lives and impact millions of people facing debt. Our work has also directly influenced calls for better regulation on ‘buy now, pay later’ credit, preventing vulnerable people falling into spirals of debt. And, we’ve shone a light on the severity of the mental health income gap, and the actions employers and government need to take to close it. Just to name a few.
Despite all of this progress, there is lots more to come. Work with the Gambling Commission will likely shape upcoming changes to outdated gambling legislation, better protecting vulnerable people and their finances. Mental Health Accessible will continue to ensure that essential services firms are best supporting customers with mental health problems. And, the compelling voices of people with lived experience will further inspire change.
Money and Mental Health is a small and relatively new charity, but it already has a big voice and an impressive impact. I have no doubt that in future, that voice will get louder and its impact larger — and I for one, am excited to see where it goes.