Global health tech company, SilverCloud Health has launched the first to market online therapeutic solution to address the global crisis relating to individuals caught in the vicious cycle of financial difficulties and mental health challenges. The Space from Money Worries programme, helps financial services to empower vulnerable clients to tackle the practical and emotional elements of financial difficulties. It is designed to target links between finances and mental health; helping individuals to learn the skills to challenge negative thoughts around finances, learn about avoidance behaviour and feel more confident about facing financial fears, including strategies to boost mood without spending and reduce impulse spending. The programme will be made available to SilverCloud’s UK healthcare partners, including 60% of NHS mental healthcare providers, as well as organisations such as Bupa and Nuffield Health. It will also be made available to financial services institutions who are seeking to meet current and upcoming regulatory requirements to assist vulnerable customers.
At a global level, the problem of debt and mental health is well documented. In the UK alone, over eight million people are struggling with debt, yet only about 1.1 million receive debt advice,1with no link being made to the role that their overall mental health can play in sustaining financial difficulties and vice versa. According to Citizens Advice, eight out of ten NHS mental health practitioners treating anxiety and depression also deal with their patients’ non-health concerns, which are most commonly debt and money problems. Research shows that those in debt are three times more likely to have a mental health problem.
According to SilverCloud CEO Ken Cahill, “With the global crisis relating to debt and mental health, we are delighted to announce this ground-breaking programme. Space from Money Worries enables banks, lenders or other creditors to offer scalable services necessary for people who are experiencing financial difficulties. Given the success we have seen with our mental health programmes, with recovery rates in line with face-to-face therapy, we know that technology can play a vital role in extending and scaling care while improving outcomes on both the mental health and the complex interwoven financial challenges that individuals struggling with debt face.”
The UK Government has made a positive start to address debt and mental health, with the amendments to the Financial Guidance and Claims Bill, recently passed in the House of Commons, ensuring people under crisis care for mental health problems will not be pursued by financial institutions.
Recent Money and Mental Health Policy Institute research highlighted a need for more clinical solutions to support people to change their patterns of thoughts and behaviours around money. The Whose job is it anyway? report stated that ‘[clinical interventions] could help to provide a lasting fix to the vicious cycle of financial difficulty and mental health problems. In practice, however, this form of intervention seems very rare.
2017 also saw increased commitments from a number of financial institutions to introduce new tools to support people with mental health problems to manage their money. February 2017 saw the first ever Financial Services Vulnerability Taskforce publish a report outlining best practice recommendations for the industry. A total of 25 banks, building societies, and other finance companies have agreed to follow the principles of good behaviour. Consumer groups such as the Money Advice Trust (MAT) are also involved.
The Space from Money Worries programme was developed in collaboration with Dr. Thomas Richardson, a Clinical Psychologist who has published extensively on the relationship between financial difficulties and mental health problems. “Financial difficulties and mental health problems are often part of the same problem, but most support options treat them individually, offering debt advice separately from mental health help. So, for example, you might be offered a debt advice appointment but if you are so anxious you can’t face it then it won’t help. Space from Money Worries tackles the root psychological mechanisms which lead to the cycle of financial difficulties and poor mental health: the negative thinking patterns which prevent you tackling your debt, the worry and avoidance which stops you seeking financial help, the impulse spending which digs you deeper into a debt cycle.”