Therapeutic llama is here to talk about money and mental health
It’s #MentalHealthAwarenessWeek and we’re all in this together! Did you know that in the UK alone 1 in 4 of us will experience a mental illness each year? One moment of kindness can change somebody’s life in one minute. Let’s always be kind to each other.
You've probably often heard that mental health and money problems are intricately linked. Poor mental health can make managing your money harder and worrying about money can make your mental health get worse.
People with problem debt are significantly more likely to experience mental health problems:
Half (46%) of people in problem debt also have a mental health problem;
86% of respondents to a Money and Mental Health survey of nearly 5,500 people with experience of mental health problems said that their financial situation had made their mental health problems worse.
People with mental health problems are also more likely to be in problem debt:
Almost one in five (18%) people with mental health problems are in problem debt;
People experiencing mental health problems are three and a half times more likely to be in problem debt than people without mental health problems (5%);
72% of respondents to Money and Mental Health’s survey said that their mental health problems had made their financial situation worse.
Source: Money and Mental Health Policy Institute, 'Money on your mind', 2016. Pathways were mapped from the qualitative accounts of financial difficulty from 2,911 people with mental health problems
Let's start by trying to understand how mental health and your money worries might be actually connected:
Your income could go down or stop if you can’t work or have to take time off work;
If you feel very 'high' during a period of mania or hypomania, you may have an urge to spend a lot of money to make yourself feel better. This can lead to impulsive decisions about your purchases that make sense at the time but leave you in lots of debt;
You might feel anxious or stressed about doing things like talking on the phone, going to the bank or opening your bills;
You may feel tired and upset when doing a job you don't enjoy to pay bills or pay off your debt;
At some point you may lose all motivation to keep control of your money;
You might find that spending any money at all or being in debt can make you feel very anxious – even if you actually have enough money;
You might experience difficulties if there is not enough money for things to keep you well such as housing, food, heating or the right medications;
Finally, money problems can affect your relationships with friends and your social life, which can have a knock-on effect on your mental health.
1. Understand your behaviour
Start by trying to understand your behaviour. Your mental health can affect how you manage money in lots of different ways. Recognising those patterns can help you find solutions that work for you. Think about when you spend money and why. Think about what aspects of money make your mental health worse – is it talking to people, opening envelopes, confrontation or when you have to deal with major companies who get the bills wrong?
It could help to keep a diary of your spending. Try and record what you spent and why. Keep a record of your mood too. This could help you work out any triggers or patterns. When you understand more about your behaviour you can think about what might help. Sometimes just being aware of these patterns can help you feel more in control.
2. Make it more difficult to spend money
To begin with, make it more difficult to spend money online. Online shopping sites and browsers often remember card details to make it easier and smoother to make purchases. Don't save your card details into websites. If you feel at risk of making impulsive spending decisions you later regret, removing the auto-filled information can help slow down your purchasing decisions. Google ‘how to clear your cookies’ to find out how to do this.
In addition, try giving your cards to someone else or putting them somewhere difficult to access. For example, keep your wallet out of your living room or bedroom (wherever you spend most of your time). This makes spending more difficult. In the meantime, do something else that makes you feel good. In the meantime, go for a walk, call a friend or watch something that you enjoy. Tell yourself 'I will buy this tomorrow if I still feel like it then'. If you still manage to overspent and regret it, you can always cancel or return items so you get the money back.
Finally, consider asking your bank to add a note to your credit file (it doesn’t harm your credit record) and think about ditching credit cards completely if you find them too difficult to manage. Get some free, confidential debt advice if you’re worried how you’ll pay them off.
3. Deal with anxiety when it comes to dealing with bills
If you feel anxious about speaking to people or dealing with letters and bills, simply ask someone you trust to open your letters for you and let you. This person will then let you know if any of them are important. Consider letting the person you are speaking to know that you have a mental health problem. In addition, if you feel uncomfortable visiting a branch or talking on the phone, find a bank that has online banking and web chat services.Finally, your GP or another health professional may be able to provide a Debt and Mental Health Evidence Form. This can help make sure that creditors take your mental health problems into account.
4. Use apps to switch your providers more easily
Mental health problems can mean that you are more likely to face problems choosing, using and paying for essential services such as water, energy, and telecoms.
Symptoms of mental health problems can make it harder for people to be engaged consumers, to compare options and to switch between providers.
People with mental health problems experience difficulties communicating with their providers, managing their accounts and getting support when problems develop.
Mental health problems can make it harder to understand complex bills and to make payments. Some consumers are choosing more expensive payment options, to retain control over their expenditure. For others, insensitive collections activity can have a negative impact on mental health.
This means that people experiencing mental health problems are more likely to pay over the odds for essential services, to struggle to seek support or redress, to miss payments and to be in problem debt.
One of the simplest ways of saving is to regularly switch your energy suppliers or check to see if you could get a better deal on your internet provider. This can save you hundreds of pounds a year! Month-to-month, that may seem like you’re only saving a few quid, but put that into your savings account and the benefits soon add up! At ApTap, we’ve made it as simple as possible for you to compare deals with just a couple of taps in the app!
5. Talk things through with someone you trust
Talking with someone can help you look at things in a different way or help you to find solutions. Sometimes, we expect those close to us to notice what we are going through. Perhaps they haven’t noticed or are waiting for you to share how you are feeling, not wanting to interfere. If you communicate how you are feeling to someone you trust, they are often willing to listen and are relieved that you have talked to them about how you are feeling.
Try and choose a quiet moment when the other person isn't distracted. It can sometimes help to start the conversation when you are doing something else – such as going for a walk, doing an activity together, driving in the car together or going for a coffee. You may find it hard to talk to others about your feelings and experiences or may feel nervous about how people will react. However, when you let someone know you need their help, they are likely to respond positively.
If the person you’ve chosen to talk with doesn’t react in the way you expect, it is not a reflection on you. It may be that they don’t know what to do. Don’t give up, find someone else who can help you. Here are some people who might be able to help:
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);
Student services. If you are a student, you might find it helpful to talk to your tutor or someone in student services. They may be able to help you apply for additional grants or bursaries;
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. See our info on peer support for some suggestions;
Samaritans. Money worries can make you feel trapped and hopeless. If you are finding it difficult to see a way forward you could talk to Samaritans for free on 116 123 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
6. Money, mental health and relationships
Money worries can put a strain on relationships for lots of different reasons:
You may find it hard to rely on your partner for money when you are unwell;
You may find it hard to talk to your partner about your debt or spending;
You and your partner may find it hard if they have to stop you spending when you're unwell. You might feel angry or frustrated with each other.
Some people find it helpful to ask other people to help them manage their money when they are unwell. Relate can offer relationship support and counselling. They also provide some online advice to help you talk to your partner about money.
If your partner stops you having access to money as a way of controlling you, this could be financial abuse. The Money Advice Service has more info on what kind of behaviour is financial abuse and where you can go for help.
7. Get organised
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.
If you’ve been feeling overwhelmed, get back in control by making small meaningful steps to build your confidence. Consider making a budget that will put you in control of your household spending and analyses your results to help you take control of your money. This budget planner, only takes 10 minutes to fill out. Here at ApTap we recommend the popular 50/30/20 budget split rule. Moreover, 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.
When you’re feeling better, think about putting money aside for times when you might not be able to focus on saving. Try using this Savings calculator to help you understand how long it will take to save a specific amount, or how much you need to save to have enough by a particular date.
In addition, download The Wellness and Recovery Action Plan (WRAP) that was created by Mary Ellen Copeland and others who have lived experience of mental health issues themselves. It’s a self-management plan you develop yourself to maximise your personal wellness.
8. Get professional advice
It can feel very hard to talk about money problems and ask for help. You may find it hard to do things that make you anxious or tired, for example using the phone, waiting for an appointment or going to an unfamiliar building. If you've had a bad experience with an advisor or a bank in the past, you might feel as if there's no point in trying again. But there are lots of places and people who want to help you. Sometimes getting professional advice can be a real relief.
This useful contacts page has lots of information about places that can help with different kinds of money issues. If you feel you need more help with your mental health, have a look at their information on seeking help for a mental health problem. Finally, the mental health charity Mind has a comprehensive list of coping strategies for those who suffer with poor mental wellbeing, to help you help yourself.
Show this to your friends to spread the word!
Be kind always,