Debt and Mental Health

With the flourish of the internet and social media it seems like every day, week or month is earmarked to something vastly random and hardly appealing to the masses or a topic much more serious that raises awareness. The month of May is dedicated to mental health, an issue that often has a lot stigma attached to it.

Money issues quite often steer people into mental health problems such as depression but also living with a mental health condition can make it difficult to find work and manage money. The link between debt and mental health has long been established; evidently clear in the statistics above. Debt may be the cause and the consequence of mental health conditions. The emotional impact of debt can affect a person’s state of mind.

  • Live in the moment and be optimistic
    As cliché as it may sound when it comes to dealing the stress of debt it is important to focus on the present and not to spend too much time thinking about the past or the future. Spending all your time thinking about the future and how much debt you have to pay off or how long it will take to pay off is what makes the situation feel overwhelming impossible. Focus on taking positive steps to improve things for you now.
  • Work with the bank
    Many people are sceptical about telling banks about their mental illness. Once a lender is aware that a customer has a mental health condition it has to make adjustments. This is covered under the Lending Code addressing your rights and protections. If you are likely to overspend because of your condition, banks can add a note to your file so they can stop your spending or contact you if they spot erratic spending (identify unusual spending patterns). You can also add a notice of correction to your credit report informing lenders about any mental health problems.
  • Find out what you’re entitled to
    Some mental health problems are considered a disability, especially if it has a long-term effect on your normal day-to-day activity in which case you are likely to be protected by the Disability Discrimination Act. Anyone with a disability may be entitled to some form of state payment. Since 2013 the rules have changed slightly so if you are over 16 you must apply for a Personal Independence Payment (PIP).
  • Stick to your budget
    Creating a budget is one of the best ways to control your finances but sticking to it is the hardest part. It can be easy to stray and treat yourself to a splurge but those little expenses can build up. Draw up a reasonable budget accounting for essential bills and costs and update it regularly. Feeling like you’ve got things under control will give you peace of mind and make you feel better too.
  • Stay active
    Exercise if vital for our health as well as our wellbeing. It is scientifically proven that physical exercise makes us happier as your body releases chemicals called endorphins that trigger a positive feeling in the body.  And you don’t have to spend money on expensive gym membership to stay active. There are plenty of gym free workouts available like this one from the NHS.
  • Reach Out
    It is easy to forget that there are people who are there to help so you don’t need to feel isolated and alone; plenty of organisations are set up to help support and advise those with debt and money worries as well as mental health problems, and not forgetting your family and friends. Don’t be afraid to reach out.

A year ago Money Advice Service partnered with NHS Choices to launch a new interactive tool to help people workout the impact of financial worries on their mental health. The tool is available on the NHS website here.


*Statistics from Royal College of Psychiatrists, 2012.