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Money and your mental health

Posted 08 November 2019

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Money and mental health problems are still two of the things we find it hardest to talk about. But they're both important - and also intrinsically linked.

So, in this post, we’re going to look at the relationship between the two. We're also going to look at what you can do if you or someone you know is struggling.

What’s the link between money and mental health?

Sometimes, events in your life can lead to problems with both mental health and money. For example, you could experience a relationship breakdown, job loss, or physical health issues.

But even if you're not experiencing problems in other areas of your life, money worries can have a negative impact on your mental health. These could include, for instance, problem debt, falling behind on your bills or just not having enough to live on. And this can become a vicious cycle, if it becomes even harder to manage your finances as a result of mental health problems.

money-and-mental-health

How poor mental health can make your money problems worse

Mental health problems can cause problems with your income, your spending, and also your ability to manage money.

Your income

If you can't work or have to take time off work, your income may be affected as a result.

Your spending

A number of mental health problems can affect how you spend money. For example, you might make impulsive credit card purchases that can have long-term effects on your finances and your credit file. Or if you experience low motivation, you may have to spend money on conveniences, such as takeaway deliveries.

You may also find it harder to save money on essential services. Citizens Advice have found that, on average, someone with a mental illness pays over £1000 more for services per year. (You can read about this research in this article about mental health issues and money.) This is largely because people experiencing mental health problems may be less capable of shopping around to save money.

Dealing with debt and mental health problems

You might find it difficult to do things like talking on the phone, going to the bank or opening envelopes. (See below for more about the mental health impacts of letters from creditors). You may also forget to do things you need to do, like paying bills.

How problems with money affect your mental health

Sometimes there is a direct link between money and mental health. Worrying about money might cause you to feel stressed, anxious or depressed. We found that a third of people who worry a lot about debts believe this has impacted their mental health.

But there are also other ways money worries can affect your mental health:

Work

Some people find it difficult to do their jobs while experiencing mental health problems. But they might feel unable to take time off because of their financial worries.

Some people with mental health problems claim benefits. This can help if you need to stop work or get a little extra income from disability benefits. (See the link to our benefits calculator under ‘Getting money advice and help’, below.) However, some people find that dealing with the benefits system can have a negative effect on their mental health.

And if you can't afford to pay for the basics - like food, shelter, and medication - your mental health may suffer, along with your physical health.

Relationships with others

You might not be able to afford to spend as much time as you’d like with friends or family. This can cause feelings of loneliness and social isolation, which can make it harder to stay happy and healthy.

Problem debt, and other financial problems, can put a lot of strain on relationships and families. People in problem debt may try to keep it from their partner, which can result in a lot of stress. And debt can even lead to the breakdown of a relationship. This in turn is often a huge mental health challenge.

Conversely, the fear of financial difficulty sometimes makes it harder to leave an unhappy relationship. You’re three times more likely to experience depression in an unhappy relationship, according to Relate.

Sleep

Getting plenty of good-quality sleep is vital for your physical and mental wellbeing - and money worries can impact your sleep! Customers tell us all the time that they were struggling to sleep until they called us.

The Money and Mental Health Policy Institute (MMHPI) campaigns for more awareness of way debt impacts mental health. One issue that can make things especially difficult for people in debt is the letters they receive from lenders.

These letters are often intimidating, with threats of court action right at the top. The language they use isn’t designed to meet accessible standards. Some people in debt get letters like this from several lenders every day. This can lead to confusion, anxiety and stress.

Much of the wording of these letters is specified in the Consumer Credit Act, so lenders have to use it.

The MMHPI are calling on the Government to update this legislation. They want to the Government to require letters which are easier to read. They also want lenders and financial services firms to be required to signpost people to help with their debt. You can sign the MMHPI petition here.

Have you noticed changes in your mood or behaviour? Have a think about whether any of the factors above are involved. Identifying the source of a problem can help you to feel more in control. It's also the first step to begin tackling the problem before it gets worse.

Getting mental health advice and help

If you’re concerned about your mental health or someone else's, Mind can give you advice on your next steps.

Call 999 if you are in immediate danger. If you need someone to talk to, the Samaritans are there 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.

Getting money advice and help

If you are struggling with money it may be worth looking into whether you are entitled to any financial help. Have a look at this benefits calculator on our website.

If you have problem debts, you’re not alone. We have an expert team who can help take a lot of the stress out of debt for you. We’re great listeners, and we can deal with creditors on your behalf.

We also strive to tailor our service to people who need extra support because of a mental health problem or other issue. Depending on your circumstances, this could include:

  • • changing the way we communicate with you
  • • with your permission, adding a third party to your account who has the authority to speak on your behalf
  • • with your permission, letting your lenders know that you’re finding it especially difficult to handle your debts. In some circumstances, we may be able to get some or all of your debts written off.

 

Here’s some of the feedback we’ve had from customers who receive extra support:

“I was really suffering from depression and anxiety. I spoke to Oliver, he was so understanding and 100% helpful in everything, nothing was too much bother...I really felt put at ease”
“I was very reassured that they were working hard for my benefit, and their concern was welcoming”
“Every member of staff I’ve spoken to has been so understanding, caring and helpful. I can talk to them...I don’t usually open up to people outside my family.”

We’re here to help. Get expert debt advice today.

by Christine Walsh

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To find out more about managing your money and getting free debt advice, visit Money Advice Service, an independent service set up to help people manage their money.