Bronwen Dalley Smith, Communications and Events Assistant, Money and Mental Health

Your experiences at the heart of our work

“The act of using my voice to contribute by educating and sharing experiences is empowering… Particularly so when we learn that some change or improvement has been achieved as a result of our input.”

As a charity relying on accurate research to create positive change, surely there is no better way to learn exactly how money and mental health impact people’s lives than to ask those with first-hand experience?

This is why we have created our Research Community.

Open to adults who have either lived experience of mental health problems, or who care for someone who has, the Community enables people to share their experiences and have a say about how current services could better support them. Whether this is experience of services within the mental health, advice or financial sectors, we are committed to getting the voices of real people heard.

Using stories to change lives

Before I started at the Money and Mental Health Policy Institute about six months ago, I hadn’t fully appreciated the importance of our Research Community – and quite how fundamental the members’ stories would be in driving our projects and research. Below are just a number of the projects that have been shaped by the experience of our Community members, in the short time since I joined the team:

“I wasn’t asked, and it didn’t seem relevant… I felt ashamed and guilty.”

  • Our Community told us that financial difficulties were not routinely addressed by mental health services, despite the known impact money problems can have on mental health. We then did in-depth research, built the case and published The Missing Link and The other one in four. We are now hoping to develop a trial with talking therapy providers.

“It does not feel comfortable for me to be pretending that I’m my father… But it was the best worst option.”

  • We learnt that Community members caring for people with mental health problems were often struggling to safely and easily help with their loved one’s financial management. We carried out a series of focus groups to develop our understanding, undertook a national survey and published Strength in numbers. We continue to work with financial institutions and carers organisations to find practical banking solutions.

“Paying £20 for the doctor’s note had a really big impact… I didn’t have any money left.”

  • As a result of hearing that members of the Community were charged up to £150 for the Debt and Mental Health Evidence Form, despite already being in financial difficulty, we launched our national Stop the charge campaign. Following the successful campaign, we are now in the process of developing a review of the form with the Department of Health, with the view of ending the charge.

“When manic I lose the ability to understand the consequences of my actions, I spend more than I have…”

  • Many members of the Community told us that they struggle to manage their money during periods of poor mental health. Seeing through the fog explored the barriers that a person with mental health problems may face when engaging with financial markets, and mapped out how products and services could be adapted to help. We then ran a two day ‘techsprint’ with experts from many of the big banks to build some of these tools.

It’s been amazing to see how personal experiences have been turned into in-depth research projects, which have in turn been developed into practical policy solutions – many of which have already had a positive impact. None of these outcomes would have been at all possible had people not opened up and shared their knowledge with us.

Bringing your stories to life

Although the majority of the Community’s involvement happens via surveys and quick polls on our new interactive platform, ‘My Money and Mental Health’, it doesn’t always stop there. As part of my role, I often talk to members of the Research Community who have volunteered to share their stories and experiences in media coverage. Sharing real people’s stories, whether this is in a newspaper article, on television or on the radio, is a really important way for us to get our work out there and help people to understand how our research relates to the real world. Ultimately, the more coverage our research gets, the more likely it is to make a difference.

I am often amazed by people’s enthusiasm and generosity when I talk to them and am always delighted to see Community members’ stories shared in our media coverage, breathing life into our research.

Adding your voice

We are determined to end the toxic relationship between financial difficulty and mental health problems. We will continue to use real stories to help inspire our research and develop policy change, but to do that, we need to grow the number of voices we hear from.

If you have experience of a mental health problem, or of caring for someone who does, and want to use your knowledge to help our fight, please join us.