Official statistics find that a quarter of people experience mental health problems.
Between February and March 2017, Citizens Advice carried out research with people affected by mental health conditions to get a sense of the challenges they faced.
The research allowed them to understand what kind of barriers people with mental health problems encountered when trying to go about their everyday business such as contacting their local authority, paying a bill, switching energy provider or signing up to a new mobile phone contract.
Many of the problems experienced are also faced by individuals without a mental health diagnosis, but for those with a mental health diagnosis the barriers at times appear unbeatable, and their mental and physical health can rapidly deteriorate.
Those who took part in the research said they found it very difficult to communicate and often begin to rely more and more on family and friends for help to solve daily problems. When their regular support network is unavailable they rely heavily on the help of support workers and mental health organisations.
Cadfan Roberts, who will be a panel member at a Citizens Advice Cymru discussion on mental health at the National Eisteddfod today, used to be a familiar face on the Welsh language soap opera Pobol y Cwm in the 90s, and has suffered from mental health problems in the past few years.
Having finished in the soap opera, Cadfan moved to north Wales and re-trained as a chimney sweep but had an accident and was unable to bend which meant he could not carry on working. Unfortunately this was followed by another accident when he chopped off the end of his thumb.
Cadfan Roberts said:
“I was walking to the shop one morning and I ‘flipped’ and that was the beginning of my nervous breakdown. The following months were a complete blur. I did go and see my GP but I do not actually remember any of that.
“When you go through times like this you lose everything including your patience and any self-worth. I lost any interest in managing day to day essentials like paying bills. I got seriously into debt and that had a detrimental effect on my physical as well as my mental health”.
Fran Targett, Director, Citizens Advice Cymru said:
“With one in four people suffering from mental health problems every year we need to do everything we can to help remove the barriers in accessing the support that people need to overcome their problems.
“We believe there is an essential need to raise awareness of the range of advice available so that those in need know where to get the help they need, especially when going through acute or unwell periods.
“We need to break the silence and tackle mental health stigma and discrimination and look at ways of making these changes”.
The research found a need for more flexibility to be built into all aspects of communicating with people with a mental health diagnosis. Appointments and phone calls need be longer to allow extra time for explanations, questions and also reassurance that there is no time pressure.
Citizens Advice is calling for all customer facing staff to have thorough training on how to recognise those suffering with mental health problems and also how best to help them.
Additionally, suppliers of essential services who provide face to face services should ensure they have staff who are trained to a high level and provide consistent advice and signposting giving a named person as a point of contact.
The next steps for the research will be explored today as part of a panel discussion at the National Eisteddfod at Societies 2 at 4:30, it will be chaired by Delyth Jewell from Citizens Advice, with Dr Mair Edwards a Clinical Psychologist, Cadfan Roberts who has suffered with mental health problems and Ian Johnson from Mind Cymru.