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Mental health and the cost-of-living crisis are inextricably linked. The UK’s mental health crisis has been escalating for years, and with the current cost-of-living crisis, many people are struggling to manage both. The cost-of-living refers to the money needed to meet basic living needs, while mental health issues can be worsened due to poverty. In this blog, we will learn how poverty affects mental health and what measures can be taken to ensure everyone has access to the services and support they need.
The link between poverty and mental health
There is evidence that mental health issues are more likely to affect people living in poverty. Mental health problems can either be caused or exacerbated by poverty, which is why it's so important to address both issues simultaneously. Research from Mind found that financial difficulties were among the most common causes of mental distress among those surveyed, with 63.2% of respondents citing it as a cause of mental ill health.
Poverty in the UK
Historically, poverty is a term that we have seen to be associated with other countries, but today, we are seeing it much more in the UK. So, it's essential to explain what poverty means to us Brits. In third-world countries, it is described as having a lack of food, water, and shelter, and this is becoming a threat in the UK; with over a third of the population fearing being made homeless in 2023.
Additionally, UK poverty can also be associated with other social disadvantages, such as a lack of education or employment opportunities, poor physical and mental well-being, and limited access to social networks.
What is a cost-of-living crisis?
A cost-of-living crisis occurs when a household’s costs exceed its total income. This can lead to financial hardship and worsen mental health issues due to stress, anxiety, and depression. In Britain, inflation has been rising faster than wages for some time; resulting in an unprecedented cost-of-living crisis for many.
Some commentators believe the UK is in the middle of a perfect storm created by the unexpected effects of Brexit, the global COVID-19 pandemic, and the war in Ukraine, concluding in inflation and a weak pound. Combining these factors has led to a significant rise in the cost-of-living, with petrol prices up 3% year-on-year and food costs up 5% and rising.
Higher rates of suicide in deprived areas
According to the Office for National Statistics (ONS) and information from the 2021 Census, poverty was a defining factor throughout the UK in the rate of male suicides.
While it is important to point out that the suicide rate of both men and women has declined over the last 40 years, peaks in the suicide rate occurred during recessionary times.
Poverty is a defining factor in a person's mental health decline, but when it comes to suicide, this is not the only factor. The Samaritans agree with the ONS that poverty is crucial to mental health. They also point out that mental health issues such as depression and severe mental illness are also suicide factors.
What needs to be done? And who needs to do it?
The government must address poverty to tackle mental health issues in the UK effectively.
People need access to good mental health services and support programmes such as housing benefits and debt advice. Therefore, to improve mental wellbeing, individuals must be provided with the necessary resources to live in security and stability. Of course, the UK government has recently announced more support to help through struggling with mental health, boosting investment by £150 million to build new facilities to support emergency care cases related to mental health issues.
What can you do?
At the University of Bolton, we want to help care-minded individuals learn how to make a difference. That’s why starting this September, we are offering a new mental health-related course. Our BSc (Hons) Mental Health, Wellbeing, and Counselling degree will help you gain a qualification in counselling skills and understand how to support people’s mental health problems.
We understand how important it is to equip people with the knowledge and skills necessary for dealing with mental health issues effectively, hopefully ensuring that no one gets left behind. #UniAsItShouldBe is about giving you the support you need throughout your studies; helping you gain a valuable degree that you can use in your journey towards helping others.
You could say that we practice what we preach. Helping our students reach their full potential is part of the Bolton DNA. Click here to view our full course details.
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