In Mental Health Awareness week, we had a chat to Vanessa Northam from Debt Charity, StepChange to find out more about the link with money and mental health, and get some advice for anyone struggling with worries around debt.
How are money and mental health linked?
In 2021, 39% of new StepChange clients had a mental health condition, showing just how closely linked money and mental health are. Many people who are struggling with debt find this has a negative impact on their mental health, causing them anxiety, affecting their sleep and their mood. At the same time, some mental health conditions can impact people’s ability or motivation to manage their money, creating a vicious cycle.
What can I do if money issues might be affecting my mental health?
If money worries are having an impact on your mental health, it’s important to know you’re not alone. At StepChange, we help hundreds of thousands of people every year to deal with their debts, many of whom are also struggling with their mental health. Our advice is completely free and impartial, and we’ll never judge – and if you’d rather not speak to someone you can get advice online on our website at www.stepchange.org.
We’d also recommend talking to a friend or family member about your worries, as opening up to someone you trust can help reduce some of the emotional burden. If your mental health is affecting your ability to pay your bills or debts, it’s important to let your creditors know. This can be daunting, but they may be able to provide you with additional support. A debt and mental health evidence form (DMHEF) can help your creditors to understand any mental health issues you may face by allowing them to receive information from your doctor or health professional, with your consent. Our website contains a guide to the DMHEF and how to complete it.
We know people don’t always seek help when they should, why do you think that is and what would you say to someone who is worried about coming forward to get help?
Many people feel ashamed about their situation and worried they’ll be judged for being in debt, and this can put people off getting help. Some people put off getting help for up to a year, and in this time their financial situation usually worsens. However, we’d urge you to get help as soon as possible if you have money worries. Our advisors are completely impartial and will never judge you. We understand that talking about your debt out loud can be incredibly difficult, so if you’re not ready to have a conversation about it our online advice tool can help.
What could I do to help a friend, partner or family member who I think might be struggling with mental health as a result of debt or money worries?
Talking about money can be really difficult and if you’re worried about someone else who may be struggling, it’s hard to know where to start. The most important thing is to reassure them that they’re not alone, and that you’re there to listen when they’re ready to open up. We’d recommend showing them some of our real life debt stories to reassure them they’re not the only one, and encourage them to get debt advice.
It’s natural to want to help a loved one when they’re struggling, but it’s important to look after yourself too. Take a look at our guide to helping friends in debt for some helpful tips on how to support your friends and practice self-care.
How can support make a difference? Can you share any examples of people who have been able to overcome debt and the difference that has made to their mental health?
Many of our clients tell us how relieved they feel after they’ve gone through the debt advice process and have a plan to get back on track. Our client, Sarah, told us that when she fell into a spiral of debt after struggling to manage her money, she experienced depression, anxiety and panic attacks as a result. Eventually, she opened up to her husband who encouraged her to contact StepChange.
Sarah told us: “The rest is history. I spoke to a debt advisor and explained the situation. They were really kind, non-judgmental and supportive, and patiently told me about the different options available.
It’s not easy facing up to the mess you’ve made with your finances. But StepChange made it a lot less painful and have been there for me every step of the way.”
Sarah is now halfway through her debt solution and feels much more in control of her money:
“Don’t suffer in silence any longer than you need to. StepChange helped me get my life together and they can help you too.”
You can find out more about Sarah’s story on the StepChange website, along with lots of other useful information and advice for anyone worried about debt.