Dealing with services
Information on telling services you have a mental health problem, what to do if you're treated unfairly, and managing anxiety around phone calls, bills and appointments.
We all have to deal with different services – whether that’s a bank, energy provider, or a phone company.
You might decide to tell the service you’re dealing with that you have a mental health problem. This is up to you, and it’s important to think carefully about the decision. If you tell them, it might help them to be more understanding and give you any extra support you need. But you might also be worried about how you will be treated.
The tips on this page are to help get you started.
If you do decide to tell a service that you have a mental health problem, there are some things you should consider:
- Think about how much you want them to know. You don’t have to tell them everything. Maybe you just want them to know how your mental health affects your ability to pay bills, open letters or speak on the phone.
- Some services have a specialist team or staff member who deals with vulnerable customers. Ask to speak to them. Check the service’s website – they might have information for vulnerable customers.
- Explain why you’re telling them this information, and what you want them to use it for. For example, if you want them to tell you about limits they can put on your bank account.
- You could get a Debt and Mental Health Evidence Form (DMHEF) from your GP. This helps to make sure that debt companies take your mental health problems into account.
- Make sure you know your rights. There are laws in place to make sure your personal information is protected, including information about a mental health problem. There are also laws to make sure services support you if you have a mental health problem. Rethink Mental Illness has information on how your personal information is protected.
See our information on the adjustments services have to make if you have a mental health problem.
A big stressor for me is having to deal with major companies who get the bills wrong.
You might get anxious or stressed about making phone calls, dealing with bills or going to appointments. This is understandable. But there are things you can do which might make these easier.
Dealing with bills or letters
- Ask someone you trust to open your letters and bills for you. They can let you know which of them are important.
- Set a time for when you’re going to open a bill or letter. You don’t have to open them all at once – you can take it step by step.
- Consider letting your bank know that you have a mental health problem, so they can make adjustments.
When I sat down with my advocate to open bills, it took a lot of the worry away.
Appointments or assessments
- If you're travelling to an appointment, plan your journey beforehand. Leave extra time so you won't worry about getting lost.
- Think about asking a friend, family member or advocate to be with you for support, or to be available for a chat afterwards.
- Get in touch beforehand and ask what you can expect from the appointment.
- Make sure you understand what you're being told, and what you need to do next. If anything is unclear, ask them to repeat themselves until you understand.
- Afterwards, keep a note of everything you talked about. You can also ask the person at the appointment to send you a summary.
See our information on benefits assessments.
- If you feel uncomfortable talking on the phone, use services which allow you to manage your account online, or let you speak to someone using web chat.
- Make notes beforehand on everything you want to ask about. You could write down all the things you want to say, and prepare answers for any questions you might be asked.
- Collect all your paperwork together, like bills, letters and bank statements. If you find you’re missing something while you’re on the call, it’s okay to ask the person to wait while you find it.
- If you get stressed or anxious about being put on hold, you might find it helpful to plan an activity for while you’re on hold. You could put the phone on loudspeaker, then do the dishes or read a book. You might feel too nervous or anxious to do this, and that’s okay. You might find it helpful to try a relaxation exercise instead.
- Speak slowly, and take your time. If the person is impatient or doesn’t listen to what you’re telling them, don’t be afraid to repeat yourself. Remember, you’re allowed to ask questions and have your say. If you feel like you’re being treated unfairly, see our information on complaining to a service.
- Afterwards, keep a note of everything you talked about. You can also ask the person on the phone to send you a summary.
No one should be treated badly because of their mental health. But sometimes this can happen, and it’s important to know there is help out there if it does. Remember, if you’ve been treated badly because of your mental health, this is not your fault.
If a service does treat you unfairly because of your mental health, this could be discrimination. The best thing to do will depend on the type of discrimination you experienced and what exactly has happened.
Sometimes you’ll be able to resolve the issue informally, by speaking to the service yourself. If you need to complain to your bank, building society or loan company, Money Helper has template letters you can use.
The service might also have a complaints procedure you can go through. The Ombudsman Services website has information on going through a complaints procedure.
If these don’t work, you might have to take legal action.
Taking care of my money and mental health
While at times it has felt uncomfortable sharing, doing so breaks down the façade. I have support in place to help me manage my finances and now feel confident to earn, save, spend, and budget for the first time in my life.
This information was published in April 2022. We will revise it in 2024.
References and bibliography available on request.
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