When people usually think about mental health, they think of aspects such as emotional management, social support, sleep, exercise and even diet. But financial health is an equally important aspect of mental health, one that is often overlooked.
Researchers at the University of South Hampton concluded that, “Researchers concluded the likelihood of having a mental health problem is three times higher among people who have debt.” Among these people, depression and anxiety tend to be the most common mental illnesses. And multiple studies report people with mental health problems are more likely to be in debt. ⁽¹⁾
Stress in America, a recent report from the American Psychological Association, shows that among more than 3,000 adults surveyed in 2014, 72 percent reported feeling stressed about money within the previous month. ⁽⁴⁾
Given these connections, it’s helpful to address both your mental health and financial health simultaneously and work on them together, since they affect one another. When you’re mentally healthy and strong, it’s much easier to handle and strengthen your finances and financial well-being.
Specific sources of financial difficulties for clients with mental health problems may include:
• Debt incurred to support a drug or alcohol problem
• Increased medical expenses
• Gambling problems
• Overspending when in a manic or depressed state
• Job instability associated with episodic mental illness
• Poor money management due to paranoid thoughts, e.g. withdrawing money from the bank to keep it ‘safe’. ⁽²⁾
Americans suffering from depression may be too proud or too scared to ask for help, but resources are available for people under the heavy weight of money stress and its emotional effects. ⁽⁴⁾ Also, financial stressors can often lead to depression. David Reiss of Rancho Santa Fe, California notes that fear of the future, feelings of failing and a sense of letting yourself down are all potential responses to financial stress that can often transform stress into depression. ⁽⁴⁾
Tackling and reducing your financial stressors will have profound impacts on your mental health, sense of well-being and your emotional health. Financial psychologist Dr. Brad Klontz writes, “when we identify our financial flashpoint experiences, challenge our distorted money beliefs, and practice healthy financial behaviors (e.g. maintain reasonable and low debt, have an active savings plan, as well as following a spending plan), we don’t just become materially richer—we become emotionally wealthier as well.”
Here are Some Tips on How You Can Improve Your Financial Health!
Talk through your worries with someone you trust.
- A friend or family member.
- A support worker or health professional.
- Your local Mind may be able to help you work out who to talk to. They may also be able to help you get an advocate (someone who can give you support to express your wishes and make sure your voice is heard).
- Peer support. If you don’t feel comfortable talking to family or friends, you could consider looking for some peer support from other people who have been there. ⁽³⁾
Choose a regular time to look at your money and bills each week so that things don’t pile up.
- Put all important records and documents (for example, payslips, bank statements, bills and receipts) in one place, so that you can find them easily.
- Create a budget (the Money Advice Service can help).
- Look into bank accounts that allow you to put money aside for essentials in separate sub-accounts. This can help prevent you spending money you need for rent or bills.
- Try just taking as much money out as you want to spend each week. ⁽³⁾
Get Professional Help
It’s important to ask a professional for help for both your mental health and financial help.
It’s worth noting that there is an exception to the way that debt affects mental health, which is when it is in the form of mortgage debt. Studies have shown that owning your own house, though it does count as debt that needs to be paid, doesn’t negatively impact a person’s mental health. As Morin points out, “In fact, the 2004 study published in Housing Studies found that homeowners have lower levels of psychological distress compared to renters.” In fact, housing is very important to one’s mental health. A 2007 study published in Psychological Medicine found that difficulty paying for housing has a major effect on mental well-being. The researchers concluded that people who struggle to pay for housing experience distress levels similar to someone experiencing divorce and job loss. ⁽¹⁾
If you’re fortunate enough to have health insurance, it’s likely that your policy covers mental health treatment, an “essential benefit” that’s included on all compliant plans under the Affordable Care Act. But if your financial situation means you’re living without coverage, you’ll have to get creative with your treatment. Dr. Reiss points out that local universities often offer free or low-cost counseling and mental health services and support groups through your community center or church can likewise be helpful. Reiss also notes that, if you qualify, Medicaid covers mental health treatment. ⁽⁴⁾
Take good care of yourself
As with all kinds of wellness and well-being, it is important to take good care of yourself by making sure that you sleep and eat well, exercise, spend time with people who make you feel good, and take time to relax.