Liam Hill, Intern, Money and Mental Health

Reflections on six months at Money and Mental Health

28 January 2019

Seven months ago, I accepted the offer of this internship at Money and Mental Health, and last week it came to an end. I joined not long after Money and Mental Health’s successful Recovery Space campaign, and it has been a privilege to see the charity go from strength to strength, while enjoying opportunities to contribute to our new campaign, to welcome new members of the team, and to learn from my talented colleagues.

A diversion

Partly, I’ve been genuinely grateful to have a role fairly untouched by Brexit for these past six months. Having worked full-time on the referendum campaign in 2016, and as a pretty voracious consumer of political news, I’m increasingly sympathetic to the so called ‘bored of Brexit’ faction.

This one question is squeezing out space for conversation about so many of the systemic problems we face as a nation, or any creative solutions there might be to these. That underlines the importance of issues, campaigns and policies which can unite people from across the political spectrum – left or right, remain or leave, fascinated or bored. Which brings me to our campaign…

Stop the #DebtThreats

Over 420,000 people in problem debt, consider taking their own lives each year in England alone. 100,000 people in problem debt in England actually attempted suicide in 2017. I remember quite clearly the day in the office that the Research team calculated these figures for our A silent killer report, trying to process the sheer scale of the problem, as well as the potential for some modest steps to provide crucial interventions in the journey from someone  being in debt to considering suicide.

So I have appreciated even more the chance to play a role in building a non-partisan campaign, based on recommendations from this report, which could save lives. It’s a change people can unite behind whatever party they do or don’t belong to, whether or however they voted in 2016.

You make the difference

In 2017, Money and Mental Health secured a commitment to review the charge for the Debt and Mental Health Evidence Form. In 2018, it spearheaded the campaign to extend the Breathing Space debt respite scheme to the tens of thousands of people who experience a mental health crisis while also struggling with problem debt every year. I’m hoping it won’t be long until our new #DebtThreats campaign, which aims to reform the laws governing the content of letters that creditors send to people in debt, is also successful. We know these letters – which can be so poorly-written, so threatening and overwhelming – can, in some cases, be a trigger for suicidal thoughts.

Since joining Money and Mental Health I’ve learnt that these important campaigns don’t emerge from a vacuum. The ideas come from members of our Research Community, the 5,000 strong group of people with experience of mental health problems, who volunteer their time to answer our questions, participate in surveys and focus groups, and sometimes even appear in the media to promote our campaigns. The Research Community is so key to what we have achieved. Having our research and campaigns grounded in people’s everyday experience really does make a big difference. It also helps the organisation punch above its weight.

Something to unite behind

I’m pleased to have made a contribution to the Money and Mental Health story. Our growing research base shows the strength of the link between mental health and financial difficulty. Ever an optimist, I would really like to hope that breaking that link – so that mental health problems aren’t a barrier to financial security, and financial problems aren’t an inevitable path to stress and worry – is an aim which can unite people in these divided times.