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In association with Experian's United For Financial Health Programme

Time to Talk Day: Money and mental health

In association with Experian's United For Financial Health Programme

According to the mental health charity Mind, one in four of us will experience a mental health problem in any given year. That’s 25% of the population dealing with mental health challenges, and often facing them alone.

Over recent years, the link between money and mental health has become increasingly clear to see. Millions of people find themselves stuck in a vicious cycle of money worries and mental health concerns, with each aggravating the other. Being stuck in this cycle can make the burden of financial troubles weigh heavy. That’s why at The Big Issue, we’re supporting Time to Talk Day 2022. Talking about our mental health can help support not only ourselves, but those around us too.

Photo by Andrew Moca on Unsplash

Starting the conversation

Worrying about money can be lonely and lots of challenges can feel out of our control. For this reason, it’s important to try and take control of the situation wherever possible. Frequently, the first step in the journey is acknowledging the situation you find yourself in. Once you acknowledge the situation, you can reach out to someone for support. This can be a friend, family member or a professional who has experience in dealing with mental health concerns or debt worries.

Juulia Kadlstedt, a BACP Accredited Counsellor working with anxiety, regularly works with clients struggling with the stress and pressure of their circumstances. “When a crisis like the rising cost of living hits us, we can easily get swept up in the stress and pressure of our circumstances. We can use the acronym F.A.C.E to help us get grounded,” says Juulia.  “Focus on what is in your control, Acknowledge your thoughts and feelings about the situation, Connect with your support system, and Engage with a breathing exercise”.  

Community can be invaluable if you find yourself stressed about money, as it can be comforting to speak to others who are in a similar situation. There are a number of online communities where individuals share their experiences and concerns, as well as coping mechanisms, including the StepChange Facebook community and MoneySavingExpert. Communities are an important reminder that you are not alone, whatever your circumstances.

Facing the facts 

For many people dealing with mental health problems as a result of money issues, one of the hardest things to figure out is where to start. Overwhelm can lead to action paralysis, and poor mental health can make it difficult to think clearly about the best steps to take or where to turn for help. The result of overwhelm can end up being avoidance. Although in the short term avoiding your money worries can give a sense of relief, the issues will not go away and eventually, you will be forced to confront them. In the case of debt in particular, avoiding bills and repayments can wind up costing you more money and putting you under even more stress. 

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Facing up to the facts and dealing with your finances head on might sound impossible, but it really is the best course of action for your bank balance and your mental health. Once you face the music, you have the information in front of you that you need to be able to make informed choices. That may mean paying off debt, reaching out to a lender for support or speaking to a debt advice charity. 

Time to breathe

Launched in 2021, Breathing Space (officially the Debt Respite Scheme) is a government scheme introduced in England and Wales to help relieve some of the stress of dealing with creditors. The purpose of the scheme is that, if eligible, your creditors will pause any enforcement action and stop adding interest or fees to the amount you owe, so that you can focus on finding a debt solution that works for your situation. The Standard Breathing Space scheme lasts for up to 60 days, with a review part way through the process.

Breathing Space isn’t a magic wand to make debt disappear, but it is a valuable option to allow you time to address your situation by pressing pause on the amount of money owed. Debt charities frequently highlight the link between debt worries and poor mental health, so the ability to halt the rising fees and charges owed in order to focus on getting on top of debt is invaluable for millions of people facing money worries.

There are a number of criteria to be eligible for Breathing Space, and not all debts qualify for the scheme so it’s important to check before you apply. Most personal debts will qualify for Breathing Space, including joint debts (with the permission of the other joint debt holder). You can find out more and apply for Breathing Space through your local debt advisor or a debt charity such as StepChange.

How to help 

Knowing what to say to a family member or friend when they open up about their financial worries might not come naturally, but there are several things you can do to support them if you find yourself as a confidant. For anyone dealing with money worries, it can take a lot of bravery to admit the challenging situation they find themselves in. By listening, you can play a part in helping them to navigate next steps. 

Photo by Aarón Blanco Tejedor on Unsplash

Amy Polly, founder of the UK’s first mental health and well-being mastermind and host of The Mental Health Rebellion Podcast says that listening is key. “A lot of the time people don’t want or need answers but they do want to be heard. Genuine listening is a powerful tool that we all have the ability to do. Don’t dismiss what people share. You may not be able to understand it but their experience, worries or concerns are very real for them, and it’s important that they aren’t made to feel stupid.”

Although it’s difficult to see people you care about struggling, do keep in mind that you are not responsible for fixing their financial problems. Often, the most valuable thing you can do is signpost for someone. 

“We can’t always hold the answers for people, and nor should we, so let someone know they have been heard and then direct them to professionals or organisations that can help. And if you don’t know any, try to find some or have a look together,” advises Amy. 

Readers, please be careful when using search engines to seek debt advice, as there are a number of imposter firms impersonating StepChange, National Debtline and other major debt advice charities. Look out for names like “Steppedchange” or “NationalDebtAdvice” to confuse people.

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