GUEST COLUMN: AiM project offers advice to those in need, by Kris Ambler, CEO at Nottinghamshire Advice Network
Much focus has fallen on mental health over recent months, with both the Government and a number of large national charities, including Rethink Mental Illness, recognising that more needs to be done to help those with problems like depression.
Clear evidence shows that mental health and debt problems are a marriage made in hell. Half of those with problem debts have a mental health problem, debt has been shown to worsen mental health, and mental health issues can cause serious debt.
Mansfield and Ashfield have some of the highest rates of depression and anxiety in the county, and it’s no wonder too then that they also have some of the highest levels of debt, as well as problems with housing and welfare benefits.
Across the county advice organisations, including the network of Citizens Advice Bureaux (CAB), are urging people to seek free, independent advice for issues like debt.
The problem for many clients is that waiting lists can seem too long, especially those experiencing stress, anxiety or depression. That’s where our Advice in Mind (AiM) comes in. AiM is a three-year service jointly delivered by Ashfield and Mansfield Citizens Advice. AiM provides vulnerable clients with a dedicated outreach worker who will help them on a one-to-one basis. Since the service started running in February, more than 100 people have benefitted already, with many of those receiving free help and support faster than through existing services.
More and more people accessing advice services report suffering from mental health problems as a result of their problems or that their mental health is worsened by the issues they face. This vicious cycle leads to a range of problems, including severe debt, risk of homelessness, family breakdown, poor health and in some extreme cases suicide.
Research shows that one in four people in the UK will experience mental health issues at some point in their life, that can be anyone, your family, friends, yourself even. I’ve experienced issues with depression in my own life, I know how disabling mental illness can be and how stigma surrounding mental health can stop people getting the help they need. People using the AiM project aren’t treated like a condition or an illness, they’re treated like human beings – people who are having a tough time who need some help.
Advice can play a huge role in helping people cope with and recover from mental ill health, and we’d urge people to take that first step and get some help as soon as possible. Visit www.nan.support.