#StopTheCharge support

We've long been interested in the issue of money and mental health at Unite in Health. There's many reasons why we have this interest.

As a trade union we represent over 1.4 million people. They are people that keep our country moving, keep it well, build its structures and much more beside. Of those 1.4 million people, on average 350,000 will experience at least one diagnosable mental health problem in any given year.

As a health sector, we represent over 100,000 health sector workers. Some work directly in mental health as specialists, for example our Mental Health Nurses Association members. For others it won't be the totality of their roles but they'll spend much of their time working to support people will mental ill health, for example our GP members in Doctors in Unite. Our members work in hospitals and in our communities, often being the only source of support for our fellow citizens at times of need.

In December 2013, our bi-monthly MHNA members journal, Mental Health Nursing, focused on the issue of austerity and mental health. Although the 'line' was often used, by the then coalition government, that 'we were all in this together', we know from the evidence that austerity has never been like this. For those least able to shoulder the burden, the pressure has been greatest. Our members have seen the impact of this, with increasing demand for their services at a time when they themselves have seen their numbers fall and the services they can call on cut.

The Money and Mental Health Policy Institute has rightly shone a light on many of the issues that people with mental ill health face regarding their finances in the U.K. including the fee that some health professionals charge people with mental health conditions to provide evidence to their creditors about their mental health.

When the Institute launched their #StopTheCharge campaign.   We asked our Unite in Health members their views. The overwhelming response was that this charge was unfair and they agreed that it must stop. For those members in the situation where they did charge for the form there was also real frustration that this was the case. They were keen to work with the Institute to ensure that the form could be reworked to ensure that it had as small an impact as possible on what are overstretched services, trying to manage so many worthy competing demands.

We are therefore really pleased to support #StopTheCharge and we welcome Prime Minister May's commitment to stopping this charge in England. As part of this, it is important that there is a review conducted of the form, as promised by the Prime Minister, and our members are ready to play a key role in this review.

We can't continue with a situation where we punish people for trying to access help and support that may make all the difference to their recovery and future health.

Dave Munday

 Dave Munday, Lead professional officer, Unite in Health
A message of support from Antony Vassalos, Chair, Unite in Health Applied Psychology Organising Professional Committee

"Many Applied Psychologists in Health and Social Care have encountered the well recognised link between service users psychological/"mental" distress and financial difficulties. No matter the severity of such distress, poor finances affect people's ability to cope exacerbating their difficulties. Such charges, as the campaign is aiming at, make matters worse for those who are already extremely vulnerable. We wish to see all avenues explored to find solutions that allow some relief for people whose finances are an additional insurmountable burden in their struggle to take control of their lives."

A message of support from George Coxon, Chair, Unite in Health Mental Health Nurses Association Organising Professional Committee

Essentially. It's a fairly obvious but well evidenced picture of a cycle of deprivation affecting those with mental health issues or problems

Access to help, health inequalities, disadvantage, difficulties in getting and keeping good housing, employment and adequate support & relationships combined with co morbidities associated with features of enduring mental health condition features leads to decline and disengagement.  Add to this must be the negative symptoms of many enduring mental health problems such as apathy, passivity, struggles to get started in the morning, inertia and flatness of affect means poor motivation and a spiral of distress and despair

Key points will always be consequences of austerity and poverty lifestyle commonalities where poor diet, lack of ability to maintain healthy habits and smoking (affecting a disproportionately high of people with mental health problems- 40% of all tobacco consumed by people with significant mental health issues)