For mother-of-nine Lindsey Turmore, life has never been easy.
The COVID pandemic brought its own challenges, but now the cost of living crisis is adding to her anxiety, and damaging her already fragile mental health.
“It’s always been a struggle, making sure the children have the right necessities that they need,” says Lindsey.
“It’s hard. Choosing do I buy food for my children, or do I pay my bills or my electric? So you’re picking and choosing all the time,” she adds.
To help with her state of mind, Lindsey regularly visits The Church on the Street. It’s a non-funded church run by Mick Flemming – the man most locals know simply as Pastor Mick – and for many it provides a lifeline.
She lives in Burnley, a town where the number of people claiming Universal Credit has gone up by over 50% in the last two years. The need for Pastor Mick’s help is now greater than ever.
Many of those who come to the church have issues with drugs or drink. Now more and more are coming for support and advice with financial and mental health problems.
According to estimates from the End Fuel Poverty Coalition, just under a third of households in Burnley are fuel poor, meaning they spend more than 10% of their income on energy bills.
I ask Mick if he feels there is a direct relationship between the current cost of living crisis and people’s mental health.
“Where there’s poverty, there’s anxiety,” he explains. “There’s not knowing where your next meal is coming from. There’s not knowing if you can put the gas or electric on. That causes stress and anxiety, and physical and of course mental health problems.”
Research by the charity Mental Health UK supports Mick’s summary. It says the number of people contacting the charity for mental health and financial advice has gone up by over 96% in the past 12 months.
‘More depression is setting in’
David Allen is a counsellor at The Church on the Street, and says he sees the impact of the financial problems people are trying to cope with.
“The numbers (of clients) are growing bigger and bigger,” he says.
“People feel that their backs are up against the wall, that they’ve got nowhere to go, which affects their mental health. They feel increasingly despondent and more depression is setting in.”
In a pilot partnership between the church and the local NHS trust, health professionals now visit the hub once a week.
The idea is that the familiar surroundings may help steer those in need of mental health care to engage with services provided by the NHS.
For those like Lindsey though, the church will always be a key part of their coping strategies and recoveries.
“It’s like a family,” she says. “I don’t know where I’d be if I couldn’t visit the hub.”
Pastor Mick has bleak predictions for the future, and he’s not alone.
For months now many experts have warned that a mental health crisis is looming. The fear now is that the added stress of the cost of living crisis will accelerate its arrival.