Why money problems often lead to mental health problems – and vice versa
It used to be taboo to talk about mental health problems. Not anymore!
Last month Prince Harry told the world that he struggled to deal with the death of his mother. It took him 20 years to seek counselling after enduring “two years of chaos”. It was a brave and important thing for Prince Harry to talk about – but one of the things that we still don’t talk about enough is the relationship between mental health and money.
It’s fair to say that people with mental health problems are likely to have more problems with money for obvious reasons – if you’re struggling with your mental health, you might not be able to work, you might not be able to organise yourself so you find your bills stacking up and left unopened, you might find yourself comfort buying things that you neither need nor can afford.
The facts tell their own story. While just 6 per cent of people who have never had mental health problems have severe or crisis debts, 36 per cent who have or have had mental health problems have severe or crisis debts, according to our friend Martin Lewis.
In fact, the Money and Mental Health Policy Institute has just published a Money and Mental Health Manifesto ahead of the election to put pressure on all political parties to recognise the relationship between mental health and money problems.
First thing, seek help. Talk to family, friends and experts, and get advice from a non-profit debt counsellor. Also talk to your bank. They can’t discriminate against you because you have a mental health problem, and they can help. If your condition means that you are likely to overspend or sign up for credit cards, a note can be attached to your file to spot when your account is being used erratically.
Be nice to yourself. Don’t blame yourself if you can’t focus on sorting out bills or making a budget. The inability to focus and lack of motivation can be symptoms of depression. You might need medical and emotional support before you can address your money problems.
When you feel up to it, start thinking about how to get your finances in order. You don’t need to tackle everything at once, do it bit by bit. Work out what you owe, who you owe, and when you need to pay it back. Then you can clearly see what needs to be paid off first. Try to pay off highest credit rates first. Make yourself a simple and realistic budget.
Try to avoid those impulse buys that you don’t need. While 37 per cent of UK adults have regretted buying online on impulse, that number jumps to 55 per cent for people who’ve experienced mental health problems.
Look after yourself. Don’t stint on essentials such as food and heating. It’s important to be warm and well fed when you’re feeling down.
Power down: Take a break from your computer and handhelds – they are not only a constant reminder of the stresses in our life, but they increase neuron activity in our brains. Experts suggest 15 to 30 technology-free minutes before bed to unwind and keeping your room a dark, electronic-free zone.
Be positive. It might feel as if you’ll never get out of this rut, but you will do. And believing you will is the first step to getting better.
And remember to talk about your money worries before it gets too late. There’s no shame in speaking out and, actually, chances are that you’ll probably find that some of your friends are in similar positions. Make sure you take time this #MentalHealthAwarenessWeek to be brave, speak up and listen to others. We believe in you.