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depression 246Poverty and Mental Health

Many people in the UK live in poverty. Many people will experience a mental health problem each year. What's the link between the two?  Iris Elliot, head of policy and research at The Mental Health Foundation explains:

"What we know is that for people who are either experiencing poverty or feel like they're at risk of falling into poverty that that's an extremely stressful place for them to be. The poverty in and of itself can cause mental health problems, both for the adults living within the household, but it also has a direct effect on children who are part of that family unit as well.
"Then for people who have mental health problems we know that because of stigma and discrimination as well as the disruption to their lives that is caused by having mental health problems, they may fall into poverty because they have disrupted education or it's difficult for them either to find work or sustain work. It can also be difficult for them to secure housing, so there's a lot of instability for some people who have mental health problems. Poverty and mental health have a two-way relationship.

"There's a really clear relationship with poverty in terms of people who are on low incomes or insecure employment, people who are living areas where it's very expensive to have an adequate standard of living, for example in terms of housing. So often people are getting into a lot of private debt and struggling to make ends meet. This can be extremely stressful and extremely damaging to mental health, particularly for families who always are living at the margins and the chronic effects of that level of struggle over a long period of time. It's very difficult for people.

"It's also difficult I think in terms of people who experience shocks to their lifestyle. For example, if they are made redundant or a relationship breaks up or something happens in terms of their housing that they lose their tenancy or they lose their home, that kind of shock can also impact severely on people's mental health. It's really important to understand that everybody can experience mental health distress and mental health problems, similarly it's recognizing that a lot of people can run the risk of falling into poverty or experiencing poverty. Part of living in a more insecure world is the fact that people are more at risk of developing mental health problems, but also developing economic difficulties as well.

"If we all chose to prioritize mental health and poverty then we'd all make a huge amount of difference very quickly."

Separately, The Money and Mental Health Foundation recently published a report which concluded that financial difficulties halved the recovery rate of those with depression. They report, "Existing research shows that among people with depression, those also experiencing financial difficulties are 4.2 times more likely to still be experiencing depression 18 months after first being assessed, compared to those without financial difficulty. Among people with anxiety, those also experiencing financial difficulty are 1.8 times more likely to still be symptomatic 18 months later."

These quotes are indicative:
“I suffered from panic attacks, anxiety and depression...I think that owing all of that money is adding to my stress and anxiety and is slowing down my recovery.”

“The stress from my financial position is making my illness worse making recovery unlikely.”

“I believe if I wasn’t so worried about our debt then my recovery...would be more controlled and I would be able to see a future for me and my husband.”

Regarding debt advice, which many churches are involved in, the outcomes are very positive, "The benefits and impact of debt advice are well established. The most recent evaluation of Money Advice Service funded face-to-face debt advice found that in 94% of cases clients were able to agree actions with their advisers to address their debt issue, and 93% of clients who agreed actions went on to progress at least one of them. 80% agreed reduced payments with their creditors, 80% set up a repayment plan and 81% set up a budget. These actions often directly reduce the pressure placed on people by creditors, provide some breathing space and prevent people from going without daily essentials. Advice also increases the client’s confidence to manage finances beyond the advice session: 84% agreed that they were more likely to open their post and 83% felt more confident with creditors. In the period following the advice (c. 3-6 months) 76% had already reduced or cleared at least some of their debts. This reduction in debts meant 80% felt more in control of their financial situation, 71% were less stressed about their debts, and 67% were sleeping better."

The Church's work on housing, debt advice, life skills, etc all help address the issues above.

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Geoff Knott, 21/11/2016

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