People suffering from mental health problems are three times more likely to be in debt. This is due to the clear interaction between financial stress and our mental health. Poor mental health, for example during times of depression or anxiety, can make it much harder to manage money. Then in turn worrying about money and bills can make mental health issues worse. This is a cycle that many find hard to break.
Getting organised is key, but it is understandably a struggle for those who suffer from mental health problems.
Tips to overcome these struggles:
Regularly checking balances to understand your income and outgoings will help to put your money into perspective and relieve the fear of not knowing how much you have. It is easier said than done, but be strict and honest with yourself. The more frequently you check, the less surprising the changes in numbers will be! Are you ignoring bills? Prioritising your purchases? Some find it easier to ignore bills than to check because of the anxiety they face when opening envelopes (especially those marked in red) and calling companies to discuss accounts. For example, the idea of calling a stranger in a call centre to ask for more time or a reduction on a bill is not easy for those who deal with social anxiety. If this is you, analyse your network. Is there someone who can speak on your behalf? And do not forget, as much as we rely on telephone communication, you can always write a letter/email instead!
Find out what alternatives your bank offers. Some banks allow customers to receive text alerts when their balance reaches a certain point or they do not have enough for upcoming direct debits. You can easily set up these text alerts online (usually) or by going into your local branch. More importantly what kind of current account do you have? At the moment, TSB are offering £5 a month for using your debit card, £5 cashback a month for your direct debits and 3% AER on balances up to £1500. Santander offer similar perks with their 123 current account.
Retail therapy is real! Some researchers have explored the usefulness of this and described it as ‘Therapeutic Utility’. From a psychological viewpoint, retail therapy can be a form of emotion regulation. For some, the immediate satisfaction from purchases helps to lift the mood especially those who may be going through a period of low mood/depression. Some mental health problems have an elated state such as bipolar disorder. This means those who suffer from bipolar may have an increased impulsivity to spend during a manic episode. If you have any close family or friends who are diagnosed with bipolar or any other mental health problem that may have a ‘manic’ episode, it may help to observe and talk to them about any detrimental changes in their spending behaviour.
Students: retail therapy really does eat at your budget. For those who have impulse buys when you get a chunk of cash from the Student Loans Company/work, it may be worth opening a new bank account. Rates of depression and anxiety are high among those in higher education. This is also a time when their source of income is limited due to university/apprentice commitments. Opening a new account will help to manage your income –in one account - and outgoings – in the other. Alternatively, you can enquire with your current bank if they have any savings or sub account options to help you budget. With the stress of academic deadlines, relationships, friendships and maybe internship or graduate job applications, it is important your finance is in check. This will be one less thing to worry about.
One way to know how much to put where, is to work out how much income you have coming in, how much you NEED to spend (on NECESSARY bills, this does not include amazon prime membership/Netflix subscription). Remove a chunk of money you may want to put into savings. The amount you are left with after working this out is your disposable income and this is what you have to play with for the next month or so. If you know life is costing you approximately £500 a month and you have £1000 at the moment, you have enough for the next two months. Think ahead and plan accordingly.
If you are aware that mental health problems affect you, you may be able to take time off work. Although it is something many people avoid doing, especially if they are struggling with money. Find out what your company offers for sick leave as it may be just what you need. What about disclosing your mental health to your employer? For obvious reasons, those who need time to deal with their mental health may not want to disclose the full facts due to stigma and any unwanted backlash. Telling someone is your personal choice. If you are too unwell to work your GP may issue a ‘fit note’. A fit note is a sick note which will be issued if you are not fit to work.
If debt is causing you mental distress, talk to someone! Start with family, friends, bank staff or even your GP. There are things you may have noticed are affected because of your money worries. Anxiety, change in sleeping patterns? Debt can be classed as anything you owe e.g. the overdraft on your account, your credit/store cards and loans. Charities such as Money Aware (part of StepChange Charity) have useful tips to help people with their debt and can also provide tailored advice, you can also go to your local citizens advice bureau for professional advice.
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