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GPs 'missing critical opportunity' to help people with mental illness avoid financial problems

GPs 'missing critical opportunity' to help people with mental illness avoid financial problems

Healthcare professionals have a "crucial role" in helping people with mental health problems avoid financial difficulties, according to a new report – but many patients aren't being offered this support.

The report, published today by the Money and Mental Health Policy Institute (MMHPI), highlights that those with mental health conditions are three and a half times more likely to be in problem debt and that this can create a vicious cycle where debt worries contribute to mental health problems and make it harder to recover.

The report says that people with depression are more than four times as likely still to have depression 18 months later if they have problem debt, yet few people receive support from their GPs about their financial circumstances.

The charity is calling for the next government to introduce interventions for GPs to help people with mental health problems avoid financial issues.

See our Mental Health and Debt guide for more info and help.

What does the report say?

MMHPI, which was founded by Martin Lewis to research and develop solutions to the link between financial problems and mental health, surveyed 473 people with lived experience of mental health conditions for the report.

Just 5% of people surveyed who had seen a GP for mental health problems said they were offered support in managing their finances.

Yet around two-thirds (64%) of those surveyed said they would have recovered more quickly from their mental health problems if they had been helped to manage their money, while the same proportion said they would have liked to receive this support when they first received a diagnosis or treatment.

And in a separate survey of GPs and healthcare professionals, most said their job would be easier if people with mental health problems were supported in dealing with money.

What is the charity calling for?

MMHPI says that the next government should introduce a 'brief intervention' for GPs to help those with mental health conditions avoid financial problems. This would mean that GPs would have short, evidence-based conversations with their patients about money, in a similar way to how they might talk about smoking or drinking alcohol.

As part of the intervention, GPs and healthcare professionals would offer people information about the links between financial problems and mental health issues. They would also be able to signpost or refer patients to local sources of support.

What does the charity say?

MMHPI chief executive Helen Undy 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. Health professionals and people with mental health problems agree – we need greater action to prevent these problems because they're destroying lives.

"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."