TW: Suicide

When your mental health is poor, earning and managing money is tough; and when you’re worrying about money, it takes a toll on your mental health. It’s a cycle that lots of us experience.

It's Mental Health Awareness Week, so we’ve dug a little deeper into the issue and highlighted some ways to keep on top of things.

The research

The link between mental health and problem debt (when a person can’t pay their debts or household bills) is clear. According to Money and Mental Health, a charity at work on the issue:

  • 46% of people in problem debt also have a mental health problem
  • People with mental health problems are nearly 3.5x more likely to have problem debt

How your money affects your mind

Financial problems are a common cause of stress, anxiety and poor sleep. Unfortunately, they’re also linked to feelings of shame which makes it hard to ask for help.

When money is low, people cut back on essentials like good food or heating, and creditors are often aggressive and insensitive when chasing debts. All of these negatives pile up, accelerating a downward spiral. 

Sadly, people with problem debt are three times more likely to consider suicide. Of course, there is rarely one single factor which leads to these thoughts, but around 100,000 people in England attempt suicide while in problem debt each year.

How your mind affects your money

It’s widely recognised that mental health problems impact income, savings, and spending. 

  • Income: People with anxiety and depression have a median gross annual income of £8,400 less than people without these conditions. Acute episodes of mental health problems disrupt income too, when people struggle to attend work.
  • Savings: If their main household income stopped, 29% of people with mental health problems would run out of money in less than a month (compared with 14% of people who have never experienced such health problems).
  • Spending: During poor mental health periods, impulsivity and other symptoms make spending an issue - 38% of people with mental health problems have taken out loans when unwell. 

Communicating with services like banks and energy companies about money worries is also tough for people with mental health problems, with 41% of those asked saying it’s difficult to make phone calls at times. 

The solutions

Whether it’s managing your finances to prevent mental health problems, or understanding your mental health to prevent financial problems, charities like Mind suggest habits that can help:

Managing your finances

Here are a few tips on organising your money day to day:

  • Keep important documents in one place (like letters, bills and receipts).
  • Check your bank balance regularly (or ask someone you trust to check for you).
  • Separate your money into different pots to make overspending less likely (like putting aside your mortgage repayment as soon as you’re paid each month).
  • Set up direct debits so that things are paid like clockwork.

If you’re feeling the squeeze, maybe:

  • Prioritise your bills and payments using something like this Money Helper tool
  • Speak to your lenders (like your mortgage or credit card provider) to find out about changing how you repay. 
  • Speak to your energy supplier because lots of them have schemes for people who need a little support.

If you can’t afford bills or food:

  • Claim benefits to help with your living costs. Don’t be put off by misconceptions and stigma around benefits - everyone needs help sometimes.
  • Use local foodbanks or community fridges (where you don’t always need vouchers) - your physical health matters too!
  • Contact a debt advice service like StepChange, about getting your finances back on track.

Understanding your mental health

Getting to know how your moods affect your money management can be helpful. Spending to make ourselves feel better is normal, and isn’t a bad thing! Enjoying your hard earned cash is a fun part of life.

But if overspending or money management is problematic for you when your mental health is poor, these tips might help:

  • Tell someone you trust about spending patterns you aren’t happy with.
  • Don’t save your card details to websites where you overspend often.
  • Limit time on social media if you get tempted by targeted ads.
  • Talk to your bank because they might be able to flag unusual spending or put limits on accounts for you.
  • Think about the products you have, some people avoid credit cards altogether! 

And if you’re concerned about gambling:

  • Talk to your bank because some offer gambling blocks.
  • Check out GAMSTOP, a free service which stops you visiting gambling websites for whatever timespan you choose.
  • Talk to professionals who understand, like GamCare

The impact on your mortgage

Deposits, credit scores and affordability are all looked at by lenders to assess whether they’ll offer you a mortgage. 

Defaults and missed payments can stay on your credit file for several years, making it harder to borrow in the future.

There will always be specialist lenders and support out there, but if you, or someone you know is struggling, it’s really important to seek help.

Useful contacts

We help with mortgages, but here are some useful contacts for wider financial or mental health support. Speaking to professionals about your individual situation is always the best course of action.

Call 116 123 anytime to talk to Samaritans.