'People with mental health problems need more help with money issues'
By Vicky Shaw
Nearly two-thirds of UK people with mental health problems feel they could have made a faster recovery if they had been given support to manage their money, according to a charity.
In a survey of nearly 500 people in the UK with mental health problems, 64% said they would have recovered more quickly if they had had help with their finances.
The Money and Mental Health Policy Institute, which released the findings, said people with mental illness are being left to fall into a dangerous cycle of money problems and worsening mental health, because they are not being given crucial information on how their condition increases the risk of financial difficulty.
It said interventions could be made by GPs in the same way that they address smoking and domestic abuse.
The majority of people questioned (64%) said they would have liked to have received this support when they first received a diagnosis or treatment, or when they first asked for help with their mental health.
GPs are missing a critical opportunity to help people with mental illness avoid the destructive spiral of money problems, it said.
People with mental health problems are more than three-and-a-half times more likely to be in problem debt, which could worsen mental health problems and make it harder to recover, the Institute said.
People with depression and problem debt are more than four times more likely to still have depression 18 months later than those with depression who do not have financial difficulties.
The report said GPs and other primary care professionals have a particularly important opportunity to support people with mental health problems to avoid financial difficulty - as nine out of 10 people receiving mental health treatment do so through GPs and primary care settings.
The research found that only one in 20 of those surveyed who had been treated by a GP said they were offered help with managing their money.
Money and Mental Health, which was set up by consumer champion Martin Lewis, is calling on the next government to task GPs and other primary care professionals with improving support to help people with mental health problems avoid financial difficulty.
It suggested that intervention to help people with mental health issues avoid financial problems could be modelled on existing interventions to address smoking and domestic abuse.
It would involve GPs and other health professionals providing people with information about the link between mental health problems and financial difficulty, and signposting or referrals to local sources of support.
Helen Undy, chief executive of the Money and Mental Health Policy Institute, said: "It's unacceptable that people with mental illness are missing out on the information they need to help them avoid money problems, when the risk of developing these issues is so much higher and so damaging for their prospects of recovery."
She continued: "GPs can play a crucial role by taking just a minute to give people information on money problems when they seek help for their mental health.
"Similar interventions already exist for GPs to address smoking and domestic abuse - it's time that addressing money problems is treated as a priority too.
"We know that there are heavy demands on GPs' time, but we can't afford to keep missing this critical opportunity to give people the information and advice they need to avoid the devastation that the combination of financial difficulty and mental health problems can cause."