Real life stories
How a cut in benefits caused my mental health to deteriorate
A once-promising footballer, Stephen had been diagnosed with anxiety and depression but was on the path to recovery when his income support was stopped, leaving him isolated and worrying about how he would support his son. His mental health deteriorated and he developed agoraphobia. Find out in his own words, how Mental Health and Money advice helped him get back on his feet.
My name is Stephen, I’m 35 years-old and I live in Wolverhampton with my parents and my six-year-old son. I wanted to tell my story so other people who have experienced money and mental health stress can understand that help is available.
How money problems affected my mental health
I received a letter about 18 months ago explaining that the income support I was receiving for looking after my son would stop as he had turned five. I had been reliant on this payment as I didn’t have any additional welfare benefits of my own because I didn’t have the confidence or knowledge to make a claim.
I was reluctant to apply because I found the process confusing and mentally tiring. Once the income support stopped I realised I was really struggling with money. I just felt as though I had failed as a dad.
Christmas soon came around, and I knew I needed to get financial support, as it was seriously affecting my mental health. It just felt like everything came at once, and I had nowhere to turn.
After researching the benefits system, I realised I could apply for Universal Credit in my local area but because I have agoraphobia I didn’t feel that I could sign on in person. I was told over the phone that I would need a doctor’s note to prove my illness but again my agoraphobia got in the way of getting that too. When I asked for someone from the DWP to come out and see me, I was met with more resistance.
In the end, I felt it was easier to ignore the situation, which just made my anxiety and depression worse. I felt that every door I tried to open was slammed shut in my face. I was lost, with nowhere to turn for help.
What the Mental Health and Money Advice did for me
That’s when I spoke to my ex-partner about my feelings and she found Mental Health and Money Advice. I was referred to the support service through Rethink Mental Illness; It has literally changed my life.
I spoke to an adviser who listened to my concerns and explained that I was not in receipt of the correct benefits. The adviser completed a welfare benefits check and then helped me make a claim for Universal Credit.
Throughout the process, the adviser gave me practical advice on how to navigate around the benefits system. And got them to come and give me a Work Capability Assessment at home.
The adviser also booked me an appointment with the doctor on my behalf; they came out and gave me a doctor’s note, and a referral to see a psychological wellbeing practitioner.
The change in my mental health has been amazing
The journey has been long but I am now receiving Universal Credit and in a much better financial position. This has relieved my stress and allowed me to improve my mental health dramatically.
Thanks to the adviser's persistence I now have coping strategies through cognitive behavioural therapy . The impact this has had on my life can’t be underestimated.
I’m now able to leave the house and go to the shops and library. I have even started going to the park with my son for a kick-about, which just wasn’t possible before.
I know I still have a way to go, but thanks to Mental Health and Money Advice I have improved my confidence and built up some skills to better manage my situation.
Note: One-to-one advice service
In addition to our website, we have a small team of dedicated mental health and money advice specialists who offer one-to-one advice and casework over the telephone. Access to this service is only available via referral from several of our partners.
If you’re currently receiving support from one of our UK charities - Rethink Mental Illness, Adferiad, Mindwise or Change Mental Health - and are experiencing mental health and money issues, please contact your support worker to be referred to our Mental Health and Money Advice service.