When money affects mental health reach out for much need help

It’s a sad truth that money troubles and mental ill-health can often go hand-in-hand – according to the Money and Mental Health Policy Institute, people with mental health problems are three and a half times more likely to experience problem debt.

Paul Baillie, Lisburn CAP Debt Centre Manager
Paul Baillie, Lisburn CAP Debt Centre Manager

Almost one in five of the people who seek help through debt charity Christians Against Poverty (CAP) say that mental ill-health was the main reason they fell into debt in the first place.

And it’s a vicious cycle. Fear and worry about finances can exacerbate existing mental health problems, making it harder to get out of the predicament. So what can be done to break the cycle?

This month, we want to share some tips for looking after your mental health if you’re under pressure with money.

Don’t ignore your feelings. Stress and anxiety, for example, are your body’s way of responding to pressure and they can sometimes be good things, as they alert you that you’re reaching your emotional limit. Ignore the warning and you’re likely to feel more and more anxious and irritable. Your mood, self-esteem, relationships and physical health may all be impacted. Mind, the mental health charity, can help you understand what you’re feeling and how to deal with it in a healthy way. Visit mind.org.uk.

Talk to someone. This might be a friend or family member you trust, or a helpline. They may be able to point you in the direction of the support you need, or simply be a listening ear to allow you to release the burden you’ve been carrying. You can contact Samaritans about anything that’s getting you down by calling 116 123 or emailing [email protected] If you’re supporting someone who is experiencing a mental health problem and you need to talk, you can call SANEline on 0300 304 7000 from 4:30pm to 10:30pm daily. If neither of these work for you, there are lots of other helplines and resources that can be found online with a quick search. You don’t have to suffer in silence.

Split up big tasks. If a task seems overwhelming and you don’t know where to start, break it down into easily achievable chunks, and give yourself credit for completing each one. For example, if you want to put together a budget, your first step might be to simply make a list of the different things you spend money on each month. There’s more advice on budget planning at moneyhelper.org.uk.

Make space for positivity. Whether you’re experiencing money worries or not, this is something we can all benefit from practising. It’s not about pretending that everything in your life is great, but taking the time to reflect on the good parts. Every night before you go to bed, get into the habit of writing down one thing that went well that day or something you’re grateful for.

Don’t wait to seek help. Sadly, a quarter of CAP clients wait three years or more before seeking debt help, all the while facing mounting pressure on their mental health. There are several excellent organisations out there who provide free debt help, including CAP (capuk.org), StepChange (stepchange.org) and Citizens Advice (citizensadvice.org.uk).