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Money and mental health

Money and its links to mental health and wellbeing

We know that people struggling with money and poor mental health or wellbeing is often linked. According to the Royal College of Psychiatrists, half of people experiencing debt say they are coping with mental health concerns on top of their money worries and our own research confirms this, with over half of people seeking debt advice saying they also have a mental health problem.

Of course, the relationship between money and mental health is very complex and can affect people in many different ways. Sometimes money worries can be the cause and sometimes it’s the illness itself. Whatever the reason, we do know there is help available out there for you if you are worried about your own or someone else’s ability to cope with financial decisions or managing money day to day.

The Money Advice Service can offer help and support on a whole range of money matters. From where to find free, confidential and impartial debt advice given by experts trained to understand how you are feeling, to making sure you are making the most of your income through better budgeting and saving. At the end of the article, you will find links to expert organisations that can help you access support with your mental health.

However, recognising you may need support can be hard to do. We know there are things people do (or don’t do) that can indicate there may be a problem.

Answering the questions below can help you to spot some signs that your financial decisions may be linked to your mental health or wellbeing. You can also use them if you’re worried about someone else too:

  • To make yourself feel better, do you spend large amounts of money on things you don’t really need?
  • Do you have gaps in time where you can’t earn because you must take time off work, or can’t work due to poor mental health or wellbeing?
  • Do you avoid opening post that contains bills or bank statements, or avoid checking them online?
  • Do you avoid face-to-face or phone conversations about money?
  • Do you worry about making day-to-day financial decisions?
  • Do you still worry about spending and debt, even if you’ve got enough money?
  • Do you struggle with concentrating when faced with money matters, or find it difficult to take in all the information you need to make financial decisions?

Any one (or all) of these behaviours does not necessarily mean you’ve got problems with your finances. However, if they happen frequently they could lead you to slowly lose control of your money and in turn build up debt.

How to get help with your finances

For anyone who’s concerned about just keeping on top of their money, there are some simple actions you can take straight away. You can simplify your finances, such as getting rid of credit cards you know could tempt you, managing the way you do online shopping or adding a note to your credit file to let your bank know there are health considerations to take into account (it won’t affect your credit score).

It’s worth working out a budget too so you know exactly how much you have coming in and going out. This will help you to see if you can find a little bit of spare cash and start to build a buffer that could help you cope with unexpected expenses, which in turn can reduce stress and worry.

If you’re close to or already in debt, then it’s important to talk about it and we know that seeking debt advice can help to stop your mental health getting worse. Getting help early can help you get back in control and pay down debts faster. Over half of people who seek debt advice tell us they feel better and more in control of their situation.

There are hundreds of free debt advice organisations where you’ll be able to discuss your situation in confidence and learn ways to cope. Check out the Money Advice Service Debt Advice Locator to find support near you in a way that you feel comfortable, online, over the phone or face to face.

If you are concerned about a loved one or are struggling yourself, you can also contact our call centre free on 0800 138 7777.

How to seek help for poor mental health or wellbeing

Finding someone to talk to can be a huge help. You can get in touch with our mental health partners including the Mental Health Foundation or Mental Health UK.

If you need to talk to someone urgently about how you are feeling, you can contact Samaritans free at any time on 116 123.

The mental health charity Rethink can help you find support in your area. Rethink also has a dedicated website called the Mental Health and Money website.

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  • N / 18 May

    A number of years ago my firstborn was a stillbirth, since then myself and my partner have had no help with grief or any other problems it may have caused. Since then my career and finances have spiralled inexorably downwards until now I have no job, and feel unemployable. There is no obvious way to get help until you hit your first job seekers sanction if you are considered a strong, indepent person outwardly.