Struggling with Money, Mental Health and Debt

Man lying on lawn

Money, mental health and debt are complex challenges knitted together in different ways.

Last week, we convened leaders across business, civil society and government to explore these critical issues in the wake of COVID-19 and to form new partnerships to help support their staff, customers and communities. 

The event highlighted the challenges that the financially under-served are facing across the UK and how this can lead to poor mental health. We heard from Sacha Romanovitch, CEO of Fair4AllFinance, that over 11 million people went into the crisis with less than £100 in savings, with certain communities within this group in even more fragile situations. 

This inequality has been exacerbated by the turbulence of the last three months and, as we emerge out of the immediate crisis period, data already suggests that up to 6.5 million people will temporarily lose their jobs.

Katie Alpin, interim Chief Executive of the Money and Mental Health Policy Institute drew attention to the serious rise in the number of people with mental health problems expected in the autumn, which she linked to a rise in bad debt and unemployment caused by COVID-19. 

We also heard a case study from Jerry During, co-founder and CEO of Money A+E, of one of their service users, Ruth*. Ruth was an Executive Assistant who was made redundant during the pandemic and began experiencing severe money difficulties, but felt that she had nowhere to turn: “There is just something about owing money, you don’t want to go there,” she said. “You tell your friends about your health, your relationship problems, but you don’t talk about your money problems.” Jerry stressed that we must normalise this problem and ensure that financial wellbeing is central to our recovery efforts after the COVID-19 crisis. 

What can all businesses do to support their customers, staff and communities? 

1. Normalise the conversation

Create avenues for people to access support - this requires moving away from “othering” of people who suffer from bad mental health, bad debt problems, or both. The pandemic has shown that anyone can be experiencing these issues - our colleagues, our friends or our family - so we need to start opening up a dialogue that allows them to access support without judgement.

2.  Harness the power of partnerships to bring the solutions to the fore 

Play to the strengths of your own organisation and work with others to create solutions. Don’t assume you need to have all the answers - tap into the expertise of others through mutually beneficial partnerships.

3. Demonstrate courageous leadership 

Be understanding, empathetic and lead by example.