Help when you need it most…

In 2019 Citizens Advice conducted research which looked at the ways people might be disadvantaged by their mental health issues.  The research concluded that poor mental health was, by far, the most common presenting health issue among Citizens Advice clients, and that an inability to confidently and effectively manage debt, or the benefit system, or indeed to get the best consumer deals available, was costing individuals as much as £1,100 to £1,550 per year.  Citizens Advice called it ‘The mental health premium’.[i]

Since then, we have endured the prolonged pandemic and are now careering into an unprecedented cost of living crisis, all of which is having a significant impact on mental health.

Citizens Advice continue to monitor processes as part of our research and campaign work and continue to lobby for change where we feel they don’t work as they should, or where they discriminate against people who do struggle, but we’re here for the practical help too.

Take Julia* for example:

Julia suffered from chronic back pain and had been forced to give up her part-time work in a convenience store.  She’d enjoyed her job, chatting with the customers, and losing it had sent her into a spiral of depression.  She wasn’t eating or sleeping properly, and she certainly wasn’t looking after her finances.  Although she knew she must be entitled to benefit help, she didn’t know where to start and frankly didn’t have the energy to think about it.  Julia knew there were unpaid bills, but it wasn’t until bailiffs turned up at her door that she realized she had to do something about it.

‘I was so embarrassed and ashamed,’ says Julia, ‘I turned up at my local Citizens Advice in tears, with a carrier bag full of unopened bills and final demands.  But nobody judged me.  My adviser, Sally, just patiently opened all the letters and sorted them into priority and non-priority debts, explaining the difference to me as she did so. She called the bailiffs and negotiated a ‘stop’ on my case while I worked out a payment plan.  Then we talked about Personal Independence Payment and how I could be eligible.  She called to request a form for me and drafted a letter to my GP asking for a report in support of my claim. I’ve got an appointment for help filling it in and she’s going to be with me every step of the way.  I will still need help from my GP of course, but it’s such a relief to know that at least that side of things is taken care of.’    

 We really can help …

Of course, we’re not medical professionals.  We can’t cure anxiety or depression, or anything else.  But we can help with some of the things you might find difficult and can carry some of that burden.  So please call Adviceline or drop into your local Citizens Advice.

[1] Rogers, C., Poll, H. and Isaksen, M., The mental health premium, 2019

*Not her real name


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