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GPs ‘miss critical opportunity’ to help people with mental illness avoid money problems

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GPs have an “important opportunity” to help people with mental health problems avoid financial difficulty, however very few patients are receiving the support they need, according to new research.

A report from the Money and Mental Health Policy Institute found that people with mental health problems are over three and a half times more likely to be in problem debt, which in turn can compound mental health problems and make it harder to recover.

People with depression and problem debt, for example, are over four times more likely to still have depression 18 months later, than those with depression who do not have financial difficulty, the report said.

While nine out of 10 people receiving mental health treatment do so through GPs, only 1 in 20 of those surveyed who had been treated by a GP said they were offered help by them to manage their money.

Money and Mental Health is calling on the next government to task GPs and other primary care professionals with improving support to help people with mental health problems avoid financial difficulty.

Helen Undy, chief executive of the Money and Mental Health Policy Institute, said: “GPs can play a crucial role by taking just a minute to give people information on money problems when they seek help for their mental health. Similar interventions already exist for GPs to address smoking and domestic abuse – it’s time that addressing money problems is treated as a priority too.

“We know that there are heavy demands on GPs’ time. But we can’t afford to keep missing this critical opportunity to give people the information and advice they need to avoid the devastation that the combination of financial difficulty and mental health problems can cause.”

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