Honoring World Mental Health Day #WorldMentalHealthDay
October 10th is World Mental Health Day – a day that the World Health Organization has designated to “raise awareness of mental health issues around the world and to mobilize efforts in support of mental health.” With the idea that mental health and well-being is of the utmost importance for every individual, we’ve decided to look at how fintechs and financial services innovations can help contribute to mental health. And there’s never been a more critical time for a focus on mental well-being. As Covid-19 prevention measures start to wane around the globe, the effects on mental health have been laid bare. “The COVID-19 pandemic has created a global crisis for mental health, fueling short- and long-term stresses and undermining the mental health of millions. Estimates put the rise in both anxiety and depressive disorders at more than 25% during the first year of the pandemic. At the same time, mental health services have been severely disrupted and the treatment gap for mental health conditions has widened.”
So, what does financial services and financial technology have to do with mental health? The Money and Mental Health Policy Institute, based in the UK, has outlined some of the ways that mental health and financial capability are inextricably linked. And why fintech innovations are in a unique position to help mitigate those effects. The Institute has looked at five key areas where fintechs can help:
- Day-to-day money management – things like setting up and/or following a budget can become insurmountable to those suffering from mental health issues. Spending trackers and push notifications warning of budget issues are key.
- High-control products – the ability to block spending in certain categories (i.e., alcohol or gambling), or limits on purchases over a certain amount can help with impulse control.
- Checking understanding online – looking at ways to alleviate some of the risks of accessing credit online, where it can be difficult for lenders to assess when an individual may be struggling with mental health.
- Support from family and friends – mitigating the risk posed to individuals who need outside support managing their money or paying their bills. For example, people often share pin numbers or passwords, which can be extremely problematic.
- Spotting the problem early – finding ways to utilize data to better spot early warning signs of mental health struggles and their effects on financial well-being.
And true to all of life’s cyclical nature, not only does mental health have an impact on financial well-being, but financial well-being has an impact on mental health. Issues like debt (whether it’s consumer debt, student loans or healthcare costs) and worrying about finances due to employment status can wreak havoc on a person’s mental state, increasing anxiety, depression, panic attacks, sleep issues, and suicide rates. The Money and Mental Health Policy Institute found that nearly half (46%) of people in problem debt also struggle with mental health issues, and 86% of respondents to their survey reported that problematic financial situations exacerbated their mental health issues.
We’ve looked at ten organizations that are innovating the ways we think about our mental health, and doing what they can to support it, whether working directly to help manage personal well-being, or supporting financial literacy and education to ensure debt and finances (and the anxiety around them) are managed effectively.
- Maslife – Backed by MasterCard, the Maslife app aims to combine payment and banking features with gamification and AI. Their goal is to encourage users to make basic, simple changes in their everyday routines that will lead to positive results in the longer-term, with tools like exercise trackers, budgeting tools, and meditation workshops. In addition, the company is building out a B2B platform that will allow businesses to offer their employees well-being features.
- Trustfolio – Branding themselves the ‘debt-tech’ experts, Trustfolio works to offer clients a deeper understanding of the entire lifecycle of personal debt, with the goal to save their clients time and money, while achieving the best possible outcomes for those struggling with debt. Their Debt Advisor Support Portal aims to streamline the debt advice process, enabling improved quality, client engagement and more positive outcomes for individuals.
- RedSTART – UK-based RedSTART focuses on financial education for children, believing that encouraging financial literacy from a young age leads to greater outcomes in the future. Working in partnership with major financial institutions, volunteers and local businesses, they run interactive programs in primary schools, providing financial educational resources for kids, teachers and parents alike.
- MoneyHelper – Featuring help for those struggling with debt, budget trackers and pension advice, MonkeyHelper is a government organization in the UK that offers free money guidance to those in need. With online tools to help individuals prioritize bills, locate debt advice, manage money, and navigate scams, this well-rounded offering ensures that citizens know exactly where to turn if they need money/debt assistance.
- Flourish Savings – Billed as a rewards and engagement platform for financial institutions, Flourish Savings offers a Financial Knowledge app that empowers members to manage their finances more efficiently while gathering financial insights and advice from their transactions. Featuring money trivia to create awareness of spending habits and personalized questions to promote financial wellness, the app also aims for proactive customer engagement with tailored financial advice.
- HoneyBee – The modern-day workforce faces numerous challenges – as do its employers, including attracting and retaining top talent. The HoneyBee app offers a best-in-class supplemental financial wellness program to encourage overall financial well-being and provides a competitive advantage to employers. With one-on-one money therapy sessions, financial education, and even available funds to manage debt, the HoneyBee app hopes to help overcome some of the structural financial inequity in the US.
- Noburo – Thailand-based Noburo is a mobile ‘wealth-being’ app focused on ensuring employee welfare. When employees are stressed out over personal finances, they are more likely to have trouble concentrating, be absent from work, or make more significant mistakes. By helping employees manage finances and overcome debt, Noburo ensures more profitable organizations.
- Quber – With programs for both employers and individuals, Canadian app Quber looks to make improving financial habits both easy and fun. Individuals can customize their saving experience so it works best for them (and so that it’s more likely to be sustainable), while employers can offer their employees inclusive financial wellness benefits that offer support and keep them engaged, reducing the impact of financial stress on the company’s bottom line.
- Wellth – Believing that it ‘pays to be healthy,’ Wellth incentivizes its members to form life-changing healthy habits, offering plans for both health care providers and employers. Covering a variety of health concerns, include behavioral and mental health as well as numerous physical conditions, Wellth helps individuals build motivation and health habits to ensure adherence to medication plans, therapy treatments and attending scheduled appointments.
- Longevity Card – Money and lifestyle app, Longevity Card, has launched a community feature providing resources for mental health and money management. The UK-based fintech, already focused on physical health and wellness, began looking at how financial services can do more to support mental well-being in response to World Mental Health Day advocacy a couple of years ago.
Mental health and well-being are so closely integrated to numerous aspects of our lives, and the effects, both positive and negative, are clearly far-reaching. Every individual has a financial story to tell – including savings and debt, investments and salary, job security, housing security, food security… it all comes back down to money in the end. The more the financial services industry and fintech innovations can do to improve mental health through the advancement of financial literacy, education, debt advice and sustainable credit programs, the better.