The universal system of government loan commitments is ruining life with bureaucracy for people with mental health problems, according to a report.

Campaigns call for more support for people with mental health problems in unemployment benefits, including the ending of sanctions for those in crisis who can not attend job interviews.

A report by the Money and Psychiatry Institute (MMHPI), initiated by Consumer Mayor Martin Lewis, found that nearly half of people of working age receiving benefits have a mental health problem.

The vast majority said that the current system has worsened their condition.

Lisa Emery, 43, of Southampton, retired in 2005 due to depression and anxiety. Repeated clashes with the Department of Labor and Pensions resulted in times when she was suicidal.

While the application process and communication were intimidating, she told the campaign that reviews were particularly difficult.

"I feel like I always have to prove myself to the interviewers," she said.

Lisa Emery says the examiners took her less seriously because I made-up and basically did not rock on my chair. (Lisa Emery)

"I have to try to tell them that mental health is fluctuating, and some days you can do quite well, and others who may struggle to get out of bed. In an interview, the examiner said I was not bad because I was making up and basically did not rock on my chair.

"They did not seem to understand the nature of mental illness."

In its Benefit Assault course report, the MMHPI surveyed nearly 500 people with mental illness about their experience with the system.

It found that nine out of ten respondents said 45 percent of respondents said they were worried.

Many struggled to collect appropriate medical evidence, and 93 percent said that their condition deteriorated in anticipation of participating in the medical examination.

Crucially, over four out of five believed that the evaluators' understanding of the mental states was lacking.

"Access to the social security system can be a difficult task for anyone, but if you are struggling with your mental health, it can be almost impossible," said Helen Undy, MMHPI's Chief Executive.

"The obstacles that people face with mental health problems at every stage of the system not only cause unnecessary stress, but also cause people to miss out on the critical support they are entitled to, or to fall out of the system altogether.

"This needs to be changed urgently as it ruins life."

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The report calls on the Department of Labor and Pension (DWP) to improve the understanding of mental health performance assessors and to improve the system, especially for people with severe mental illness.

This could include the expansion of communication channels. This was one of the areas highlighted by Amanda, who said that the communications to their reviewers often went unanswered and that calls for information were unsuccessful.

Patients who are in an acute mental health crisis may not be able to leave the house but will lose unemployment benefits if they do not attend assessments and seek work.

The report calls for exemptions to protect them from sanctions, in line with those who are being treated for drug and alcohol dependence.

A DWP spokesman said: "Universal Credit is a good force, and where the challenges persist we will continue to improve.

"We are committed to supporting the weakest applicants and our new partnership with Citizens Advice will provide more tailor-made assistance."


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