Dealing with Debt and Mental Health

Your mental health can affect your finances and your finances can affect your mental health. The specific effects vary, but common ones include feeling very anxious about financial matters, impulsive spending and losing control of finances during a period of depression. It makes sense when you think about it: if you are depressed, showering and cooking meals become massive challenges – paying bills on time has to take a backseat while you prioritise the bare essentials. Trouble is, you have to face your finances when you start feeling better and if they are a mess, it could make you feel worse again.

The good news is that there are some great resources for people with mental health problems and debt:

  • Money Saving Expert has produced a Mental Health & Debt guide that is supported by several mental health charities. It can be downloaded as a PDF at moneysavingexpert.com/credit-cards/mental-health-guide and contains loads of useful information. There is also a page of tips for people with bipolar, who may be prone to impulsive spending during manic phases. Unfortunately, there is no mention of borderline personality disorder – despite impulsive spending being a symptom of the condition.
  • Mind also have information on mental health and debt, including tools you can use to ascertain whether or not you have a problem at mind.org.uk/information-support/guides-to-support-and-services/debt-and-mental-health/ and details of where you can go for support. It also has a guide you can download.
  • stepchange.org is a UK debt charity which can help people with debt problems and also has a lot of articles and resources on debt and mental health.

It’s important to get any help and support you need as soon as you can. You can solve your money problems, but the longer you leave it before addressing the problems, the worse your problems will get – and the more impact they will have on your mental health. I know you might feel ashamed or embarrassed, but there are many understanding, supportive people who can help you. Debt is a common problem and there is no shame in admitting you have money problems. In fact, you deserve praise for finding the courage to face your debt.

My mental health has had a huge impact on my finances. I have had to leave jobs because of mental illness and decimated my meagre savings as I waited to receive benefits. Relying on benefits for several years has been difficult; the judgment I face from both government employees and society in general has made my depression and anxiety worse at various points. One of the symptoms of borderline personality disorder that I struggle with is impulsive spending. I took out a credit card to pay for my MA tuition (which was definitely worth it), but also bought a lot of expensive crap in attempts to make myself feel better (definitely not worth it) and ended up with over £6200 on my credit card. I also had a £2000 overdraft, which I have managed to reduce to £0. I also owe my parents several thousand pounds, because they have been forced to support me for most of my adult life.

I’m telling you this to demonstrate that I no longer feel ashamed of my debt. I am dealing with it and (slowly) paying it back. The process isn’t entirely linear: sometimes I mess up and buy a pair of shoes because I think it will make me happy. Sometimes I buy too many books, kidding myself that £3 or £4 is a negligible amount and won’t add up. Other times, I have unexpected expenses like vet bills or replacing broken items. However, I always go back to reducing my debt instead of increasing it. It’s not easy, but it will be worth it in the end.

Facing your money problems is difficult at the best of times, let alone when you are recovering from mental illness, but it’s easier to do it now than to wait until the problems get worse. You are not alone. There are people who can – and will – help you. Start by following the links I have provided above.

 

See also: 7 Steps to Start Dealing with Debt