Research shows mental health professionals are fighting fires, rather than delivering treatment

Study finds 

New research published today has found that mental health professionals are being forced to deal with patients’ wider problems rather than treating their illness, as more and more of them struggle with issues such as debt and benefits.

A report by the Money and Mental Health Institute reveals mental health professionals - including psychiatrists and mental health nurses - feel they have to tackle these urgent practical issues before they can focus on their patients’ mental health. The practical tasks being done by mental health professionals include:

  • Filling in benefits paperwork
  • Making telephone calls or writing letters to creditors
  • Accompanying service users to advice appointments
  • Giving practical advice about budgeting and managing debts.

The findings come as Citizens Advice releases new research showing the number of people turning to the charity for help who report having a mental health problem has increased by 9 per cent in the past year.

The new report also shows that people with mental health problems are more likely to face a web of complex issues, each dealing with an average of five problems ranging from money worries to problems at work.

Debt is a particular problem and Citizens Advice finds that of people with mental health problems who it supports:

  • A third need advice on debts, compared with a fifth of all people it helps.
  • Almost a third (31 per cent) are finding it difficult to manage financially, compared with fewer than 1 in 9 (12 per cent) of the general UK population.
  • More than two thirds (67 per cent) have needed advice on multiple debts in the same year, compared to less than half (45 per cent) of people the charity helps who don’t have mental health problems. These issues are especially evident for ‘priority debt’, such as rent or council tax, putting them at greater risk of eviction, or visits from bailiffs, being cut off from energy supplies and even prison.

The charities have joined forces to warn that, in the face of increased consumer borrowing, the introduction of Universal Credit, and ongoing issues around insecure work, it’s more important than ever that people with mental health problems can get the help they need to tackle the complex challenges life can throw at them.

Gillian Guy, Chief Executive of Citizens Advice, said:

“Complex issues like managing debts or dealing with employment problems can be so much harder to cope with if you have a mental health problem, but left unaddressed they can undermine treatment and make it harder to recover - creating a vicious cycle that is incredibly difficult to escape from.

“Practical advice and support can be invaluable to people’s financial and mental wellbeing, but this burden should not fall on mental health professionals who are already overstretched.”

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