RCPsych Wales recently partnered up with Citizen’s Advice Cymru to explore the potential links between various day-to-day practical issues (money, debt, housing & employment) and their mental health implications.
The Citizens’ Advice Bureau provides support and advice to people in over 500 health settings across England and Wales, and they report that mental health is the most common health issue affecting people who go to them for help.
RCPsych Wales and Citizens' Advice Cymru wanted to explore how mental health issues impacted on peoples’ ability to manage the practical aspects of their daily lives. We also wanted to understand how lack of support to cope with these practical issues can affect a person’s mental health. The research captured what types of practical problems those affected by this raised with mental health practitioners, and what kind of response those people received from these queries. The research also examined how this issue impacted on clinicians’ ability to offer treatment and what the effects were in terms of demands on services. The research aimed to:
- Establish whether patients raised practical problems with mental health practitioners
- Understand how mental health practitioners responded when a patient presented them with a non-clinical issue
- Assess how patients’ practical problems impact upon their experience of care
- Look at how patients’ practical problems impacted on their mental health/recovery from periods of being unwell
Data gathered by Citizens Advice Cymru showed that 49% of their clients in Wales have a long-term health condition or disability (with the most common of these being mental health) so together, Citizens' Advice Cymru and RCPsych Wales explored how practical problems mentioned above can affect people’s mental health when there’s a lack of support. Fifty-seven mental health practitioners across Wales responded to a tailored survey, with all confirming they were spending increasing amounts of time helping people resolve practical day-to-day issues. The survey found that:
- 90% of practitioners stated their patients were raising practical problems at their appointments
- 50% of practitioners felt they were spending more time than in previous years dealing with non-health related issues as part of appointments
- 90% of practitioners said these practical problems led to patients being unable to manage their mental health, plus created a barrier to their recovery
Supporting people who experience mental health issues with their practical problems is essential. There have been some great examples across Wales and England of how offering practical advice in mental health services and health settings can really help people. This includes setting up satellite CAB services within healthcare establishments or just simply encouraging clinicians to be more proactive in referring their patients to the CAB. Both RCPsych Wales and Citizens' Advice Cymru believe that integrating practical support services into mental health services across Wales would be incredibly beneficial to those with mental health issues.