The Link Between Money & Mental Health
The link between money problems and mental health issues is well known. We all know that money worries are one of the biggest contributors to mental health issues among UK adults, and you could probably guess that people suffering from mental health issues are some of the most likely to be in debt.
Every article on the subject of money and mental health starts with a statistic about a percentage of the UK population that either: A. has money worries, or B. suffers from mental health issues. We’re not going to do that – simply because it’s not helpful.
What are these statistics supposed to prove anyway? That you’re not alone if you are feeling anxious about money? That you’re not the only person suffering from financial stress and money anxiety? That approach seems patronising at best.
True, you are not the only person awake at 3am paralysed by anxiety wondering how your direct debits will clear in the morning or how you will get through the month without letting down your children / friends / partner / parents when you can’t afford the promises you’ve made.
But I bet you know that, and I bet you still feel alone.
The stark reason that our money anxiety has such a destructive element on all aspects of our life is that debt is extremely isolating. Add to that the anxiety, paranoia and self-doubt which haunts anyone with mental health issues, and you have a perfect storm.
Why don’t we talk about debt?
A much more relevant figure is the 80% of adults who would hide debt from a partner, which proves the point that we don’t like talking about our financial health.
This is a very worrying trend, particularly when we know that the best way to deal with mental health issues is to talk about them. But that is exactly what we’re not doing.
It seems likely that this is a symptom of our very British approach to money – we don’t like to talk about it and we certainly don’t like to admit we don’t have it.
The national vow of silence when it comes to talking about money anxiety is a particular concern when we examine the connection between money and mental health.
There are big waves being made on the mental health front. The big taboo that was talking about health issues (particularly depression, anxiety and stress) is being broken. Charities such as Mind and Headway are making massive progress with public campaigns which promote understanding and cooperation, and even employers are now taking steps to promote talking about mental health in a way which is compassionate and considerate.
But we still don’t talk about debt!
And if we won’t talk honestly about our financial wellbeing, how will we start to tackle the causes of financial stress? What’s more, until we can talk about the cause of mental health issues, the problems continue. Furthermore, they will get worse.
We want to promote honest and open conversation about money and mental health, and to start talking about strategies which will help real people find ways of coping with financial stress.
How does money affect mental health?
As shown in the image above, the link between money and mental health is cyclical. It’s a bit like the ‘chicken and egg’, so which comes first? And how do you get out of the cycle?
The answer is different for everyone meaning that a one-size-fits-all approach is unhelpful. Many people may identify with a particular cycle such as the one outlined below:
- Anyone suffering from mental health problems is likely to struggle in other aspects of their life and will also struggle with financial anxiety.
- Debt and money worries then create more pressure on your mental health.
- When you’re going through a bad period, as with any illness, you will have little time or energy to focus on other areas of your life, like making money and paying bills.
- You may not have the time or energy, and even if you do, it may be the last thing you want to think about.
- Without attention, bills do not get paid, income may decrease and you slip into debt.
- Anxiety and isolation keep you up at night. Without sleep, you don’t have the same attention span or ability to cope and your finances slip further.
- Self-doubt and blame then may enter the mix.
We know that, when you’re stuck in this cycle, even the smallest steps like talking to an advisor or making a household budget seem impossible. There are other ways to cope with financial stress and money anxiety and take the first steps to improving your mental and financial wellbeing.
You can find help whenever you’re ready
We’ve been speaking to people stuck in this cycle for the last four years. We understand that you have to start small, take it one day at a time and, most importantly, do not blame yourself.
Debt is never your fault, there is always a cause and this is often something you can do nothing about. We know that debt can be caused by factors way outside of your control like redundancy or a sudden loss of income, bereavement, illness or hospitalisations or even a relationship breakdown. The really frustrating thing is that, whilst it can be so easy to slip into debt, it is never so easy to get back out (bank errors in your favour only happen in board games!).
The good news is that help for money worry is out there in spades! But you may have a long way to go before you’re even ready to start thinking about where to turn. And that’s ok too!
You should never feel under pressure to tackle the causes of financial stress until you are really ready. Yes, the sooner you do it, the better you will feel – but if you stumble across help at the wrong time and when you’re not ready for it, you are likely to make the wrong decision and start on a path which you will regret further down the line.