Steven’s Story

A cut in benefits caused Steven’s mental health to deteriorate. He contacted the Mental Health and Money Advice service who helped him to make a claim and get him back on his feet. Here’s his story.

"It just felt like everything came at once, and I had nowhere to turn. I felt as though I had failed as a dad."

I was diagnosed with anxiety and depression years ago. I was on the road to recovery when I got a letter saying that because my son was turning 5 the income support I was getting would stop. I didn’t know what to do, I relied on these payments to live off. I didn’t have any other welfare benefits because I didn’t know how to make a claim.

I felt alone and constantly worried about how I would support my son. Things got worse and worse until I felt scared to leave the house. I didn’t want to go anywhere or get in any situations that would make me panic, I felt really trapped and embarrassed. I had developed agoraphobia.

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. I felt as though I had failed as a dad.

After researching the benefits system, I realised I could apply for Universal Credit in my local area. But I didn’t feel like 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 my agoraphobia got in the way of getting it. When I asked for someone from the DWP to come out and see me they made it really difficult.

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 literally changed my life.

I spoke to an advisor on the phone who listened to what was going on and they explained that I should be getting benefits. They did a welfare benefits check and then helped me to apply for Universal Credit. The advisor gave me advice around the benefits system and arranged a Work Capability Assessment to be done at home. They also booked me a doctor’s appointment which meant I could get a doctor’s note. I also got a referral to see a psychological wellbeing practitioner.

The journey has been long, but I am now receiving Universal Credit and in a much better financial position. I feel less stressed and my mental health has improved dramatically.

Thanks to the adviser’s persistence I now have coping strategies through cognitive behavioural therapy. 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. The impact this has had on my life can’t be underestimated.

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. I want to tell my story so that other people who have experiences money and mental health stress can understand that there is help out there.

Please note: Names and identifying details have been changed to protect the privacy of individuals.

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