Jake Mills is the founder and CEO of Chasing the Stigma, a national mental health charity on a mission to “normalise and humanise mental illness”.
He founded the charity after suffering from depression himself and attempting to take his own life five years ago.
Using first-hand experience, he’s campaigning to remove the fear and the stigma attached to mental illness that prevents many people from talking about it.
Here, Jake tells us about the difficulties faced by people experiencing mental health problems, and how financial services and utilities providers could make their lives a little easier.
How well do you feel utilities and financial services companies serve people with mental health problems?
Not very well. Debt is a serious trigger for mental health problems and is one of the main causes of homelessness.
It’s unlikely most people dealing with such problems would know where to turn to – I wouldn’t be aware of any help these companies might offer.
They depend too much on people to go and find this information out for themselves, but most people wouldn’t know where to start.
One challenge is that many people view these companies solely as bills – they tend to be dreaded rather than viewed as entities that can support people.
That needs to change. They play a huge part in all of our lives and so they certainly have a duty of care to customers.
How do you think they could improve?
There’s more these companies could do in terms of generating awareness of the support options available, and perhaps in terms of identifying those who are struggling and proactively offering help. It could even save lives.
People dealing with mental health problems often don’t seek professional help because they fear repercussions.
For anyone dealing with that, getting in touch with their service provider to inform them they can’t pay their bill is going to be right down on their list of priorities. Particularly when they don’t trust these companies to act in their best interests in the first place.
Could companies make better use of digital to improve experiences?
Companies need to try and break down the barriers to engagement; a key one being that people are often forced to say out loud, ‘I have a problem’.
If they haven’t said that out loud before, the first instance in which they do is not going to be to their utilities or financial services company.
Digital could be more widely used so people don’t have to do that. The sense of anonymity that it often provides helps people take the first step to seeking help and support.
Tell us about the Hub of Hope
It’s a national mental health database which brings together organisations and charities, large and small, from across the country who offer mental health advice and support.
We’re making it easier for people to seek help. By providing all that information together in one place.
One in four people will experience mental health problems each year and it’s not uncommon for people to be on NHS waiting lists for over a year.
The Hub of Hope isn’t intended to replace NHS services, but to work alongside it; it helps fill that void whilst people are waiting to be seen.
It’s turned into the most comprehensive signposting tool for mental health support across the country. It’s used by the Samaritans, Papyrus, National Suicide Prevention, Mind, CALM – we have more than twelve hundred support groups and charities registered.
We’re also about to launch a new training programme called Ambassadors of Hope, where we’ll be going into organisations to help build their understanding of mental health and how to talk about it.
Mando have signed up to receive training through the Ambassadors of Hope, to better support our team through any mental health challenges they may be facing.
We’re looking to learn more about the challenges faced by priority customers when dealing with their financial services and utilities providers - to explore the potential of digital technologies to simplify them. If you would like to learn more about our research, or contribute, please get in touch: firstname.lastname@example.org