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BACP Urges UK Governments to Address Mental Health Crisis Worsened by Cost of Living Pressures

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The British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy (BACP) is urging governments all over the UK to take action right away because a recent poll and report show how severely the cost of living crisis is continuing to harm the mental health of the most vulnerable people in the country.

New data from BACP’s annual Public Perceptions Survey shows that the cost of living crisis continues to damage the nation’s mental health, as three-quarters (74%) admit their mental health is being worsened by the current cost of living crisis – an increase of a third since 2022.

The hardest hit are those that have had a mental health issue in the past five years, with four in five (84%) admitting the cost of living and inflation are negatively impacting their health and well-being.

After collecting data from the public and extensive insights from therapists and mental health services, BACP has issued a 13-point action plan to governments across the UK, urging them to invest in counselling and psychotherapy across a range of sectors to make a positive difference in the nation’s mental health.

Dr Lisa Morrison Coulthard, BACP’s Director of Professional Standards, Policy, and Research, said: “The nation’s mental health is on the knife edge, and we’re deeply concerned for those most vulnerable who are disproportionately struggling with their mental health and the financial crisis right now. Money worries and the cost of living crisis are major concerns for many but they’re unequally impacting the nation’s most marginalised communities and urgently require government attention and investment.

“Mental health services that people could ordinarily turn to are experiencing unprecedented demand, have long wait lists, and are working to increasingly strained budgets – so people are struggling to access the support they need. This is why we’ve sent our report and recommendations to Parliamentarians and key decision-makers, as it’s vital that governments expedite the mental health agenda and make it a top priority.

“What’s clear from our analysis is that tackling the downturn in people’s mental health created by the financial crisis will require investment in much more accessible and widely available, appropriate mental health services across a range of settings that provide earlier intervention, and are free at the point of need. Trained yet underutilised counsellors and psychotherapists have a critical role to play within this enhanced offer. But funding needs to be made available to ensure that this critical workforce themselves aren’t additional victims of the cost of living crisis and are paid a fair and sustainable wage.”

With more than 4 in 5 (83%) admitting that the cost of living crisis has had a negative impact on their mental health and wellbeing, those between the ages of 25 and 44 appear to be another group that has been hardest hit. Women also seem to be significantly more impacted than men (77% vs 70%), as well as those from ethnic minorities (81%), LGB+ people (80%), and those with a disability (79%).

According to the nationwide poll, 4 in 5 (82%) of those with household incomes under £15k admit that the cost of living crisis has had a negative impact on their mental health.

Maria Morgan is a BACP member and Mental Health Lead for the Wellbeing Service at Disability Action, which provides counselling support to disabled people across Northern Ireland. The charity has provided more than 5,000 counselling sessions to disabled people and their loved ones over the past three years, but the service has now lost the majority of its funding due to budget cuts.

She said: “The most marginalised in society are having their financial support removed. It’s now at the point where disabled people and their carers are choosing between basic needs such as food or heat and electricity for life saving equipment. This is having a devastating impact on their mental health, leaving them anxious, depressed, and fearful of what will happen next and if they can carry on. Support cuts have also meant there is reduced respite and primary care support, lending to a decline in carers’ mental health. Our services provide a safe environment for them to navigate the complexities of their emotions without judgement.”

BACP’s report Understanding the cost of living crisis – Valuing our mental health and recommendations have been issued to Parliamentarians and key decision makers and is based on the expert testimony of therapists and services who have provided vital mental health support to people during these challenging times.

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