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Mental Health Awareness Week: Debt and your mental health

18/05/2020

This year’s Mental Health Awareness week takes place from 18-24 May, and its central theme is kindness. The annual campaign, organised by the Mental Health Foundation, is designed to raise awareness and promote discussion of mental health and how it impacts all of our lives.

It comes at a time that the coronavirus pandemic has left many of us facing financial uncertainty, debt, and more money worries than usual. While it’s thought that as many as one in three of people in the UK could be dealing with mental health issues, this is higher in those who are struggling with debt; as many as one in two adults.

There’s a clear crossover between our mental wellbeing, and our financial health. This article looks at the ways mental health may impact on your finances – and what you action you can take when it does.

Understand the cycle… then break it

The ways in which money and mental health interact can be cyclical; you may spend money because you are struggling with your mental health. Or, on the other hand, money worries may act as a trigger for episodes of anxiety or depression. Sometimes it can help to take a step back and recognise those moments that money and mental health interact for you. This could be:

  • Sleeping less because you’re anxious about how to pay the bills.
  • Spending more because it brings feelings of comfort, escape or self-esteem.
  • Ignoring money issues because you feel afraid, unhappy or overwhelmed.
  • Gambling online or chasing losses to try to recover some money.

Recognising the patterns that affect how you behave can help you regain a sense of control over your life. It can be helpful to keep a diary of your spending, and your reasons for doing so.

If you are spending because you feel unhappy, lonely, depressed or anxious, it could be time to reach out to your GP. Deal with the root cause, your mental health, and you may find that your spending slows, and you feel clearer on how to deal with bills and debt.

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Take small steps to regain control

Just as it’s easy to fall into negative habits, like spending when you feel down or avoiding your mail and bank statements, it’s just as easy to form positive ones. Here are just a few small steps you can take to start feeling more optimistic about your finances and forming positive habits:

  • Delete your payment information from websites you like to shop at frequently and lock away your credit and debit cards somewhere you can’t use them. Knowing you can’t spend or get further into debt is an important step in the right direction.
  • Take a deep breath… then read your bank statement. Knowing how much you’re spending can help you learn the extent of your debt problem, and how to solve it.
  • Create a budget. Write down all your essential outgoings and bills, and identify the money that’s left over every month from your income. Understanding how much money you have free to spend can help you stay realistic about your spending, and feel more in control as a result.
  • Save – even a little. Putting a small amount of money aside every month can make you feel more hopeful and prepared for the future. And having a rainy-day fund if an appliance breaks or the kids need new shoes can help you avoid short-term emergency debt with high-interest rates.

Speak up, speak out

Too many people shoulder their debt in silence, whether from feelings of embarrassment, guilt or regret. In the past there may have been a huge amount of stigma attached to debt and money worries, but this is no longer the case.

Breaking the silence is one of the bravest and most positive steps anyone struggling with debt can take. Here are a few ways you may wish to start talking about debt:

  • Confide in just one close friend or family member about your debt. Sharing your problem will feel like some of the burden has been lifted – and they may be able to help.
  • Let your bank or creditors know that you’re experiencing mental health issues. If it’s too difficult to speak to them directly, many banks have the option to discuss your account online via web chat.
  • Join an online forum or group of peers experiencing similar problems via social media. Reading about other people going through the same thing – and getting out of it – can be a tremendous source of motivation.
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Know where to go for help

If none of the above steps sound achievable for you just yet, don’t lose hope. There is always somewhere you can turn, and there is always a path out of debt.

  • If you feel the stress caused by your debt has become unbearable, contact your GP, and they can put you in touch with local mental health services.
  • If you’re having suicidal thoughts, experiencing emotional distress or need to speak to someone in confidence, the Samaritans are available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year on 116 123.
  • Live in England or Wales? Mental health charity MIND has a wealth of resources on their website, including this help tool for people who need immediate assistance.
  • If you’re struggling with a gambling addiction or want to understand more about your gambling habit, help is available at the Be Gamble Aware website. You can also call them on 0808 8020 133, 24 hours a day.

If you feel crushed by your money problems and debt is taking its toll on your mental health, it’s time to act. At Creditfix, we can offer free, confidential debt advice to people who are suffering through debt. Call us today on 0808 253 3299 and start feeling more positive about your prospects.  

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