Hannah Lewis, Mental Health and Money Advice
A toolkit to help people improve their mental and financial health
23 November 2020
Last week, we were delighted to launch our Mental Health and Money Toolkit – a new resource that aims to help people understand, manage and improve their mental and financial wellbeing. Inspired by Money and Mental Health research on the role healthcare services can play in preventing financial difficulty, Mental Health and Money Advice’s guide is particularly intended to help people start conversations about money and mental health with a healthcare worker or debt adviser.
How we developed the toolkit
The toolkit was made possible after we were commissioned by the Department of Health and Social Care to produce and disseminate a resource for people experiencing financial and mental health difficulties. We recognised early on that the key to the success of the project would be to use a co-production approach.
Co-production is the process where people with lived experience and people with professional experience come together as equal partners to ensure that the resource represents what it is like to live with mental health and financial difficulties.
To facilitate this, we held workshops with both groups to understand what it was like to experience mental health and money difficulties, as well as what the new resource needed. Members of these groups also then contributed to the final design process of the toolkit itself.
What we found out
Echoing the Money and Mental Health Policy Institute’s report, people strongly identified with the idea of mental health and money difficulties having a cyclical relationship. They described how this felt like ‘a vicious cycle’ with one aspect affecting the other and vice versa.
People shared both the impact that mental health difficulties had on their money management, as well as the impact that money difficulties had on their mental health.
For example, people described how sometimes the symptoms of their mental health difficulties could either inhibit them from spending money altogether – due to obsessive or compulsive saving and budgeting – while others experienced a complete release of inhibitions leading to impulsive spending.
A lot of people also experienced avoidance behaviours, and while this alleviated anxiety in the short-term people recognised that this often led to their problems getting worse.
When people told us how money difficulties impacted their mental health, they described a detrimental effect on their confidence and self-esteem due to feelings of guilt, shame and embarrassment, and that these feelings often acted as a barrier to accessing help and support.
In terms of navigating support for mental health and money difficulties, many people reiterated how local voluntary and community sector provision was crucial – especially when it came to complex procedures such as applying for welfare benefits or receiving specialist debt advice.
However, a barrier to accessing support was the fear of having to re-tell their circumstances to different people and agencies, as well as the local and regional variation in provision.
Developing the Mental Health and Money Toolkit
After listening to people’s experiences and collaboratively identifying solutions to the issues they described, we made the following recommendations for the toolkit:
- It should empower individuals to take control of their situations without having to repeat their circumstances to different agencies.
- It should include a ‘self-help’ resource, including evidence-based tools and techniques to manage difficult emotions such as guilt, shame, and low self-esteem, to prepare people to get ‘in the right headspace’ to act.
- It should include money management advice and tools, which the user could work through in collaboration with their primary healthcare professional and take to any money advice appointments.
Launching the toolkit
The Mental Health and Money Toolkit launched digitally during the Money and Pensions Service’s Talk Money Week, as well as being distributed to 4,000 GP surgeries in England.
We hope this will help to eradicate the stigma surrounding both mental health and money difficulties, and encourage people to have conversations earlier and with confidence before their challenges escalate.
The Mental Health and Money Toolkit is available to download now, and the Mental Health and Money Service have also created a bespoke guide for health care professionals.