Mental health problems touch the lives of millions of people each year worldwide. Last year in Ireland alone, more than one in four people screened positive for anxiety and/or depression. Understanding and managing poor mental health is a lifetime struggle for many people. As a society, we are still in the early stages of recognising mental health as a serious issue among people of all ages.
Money and mental health; a vicious cycle
Financial wellbeing can strongly influence mental wellness, as it dictates almost every aspect of our lives – we should not underestimate its impact. Our attitude towards money is often a reflection of how we grew up, our family experiences, and how money was talked about in our home environment. Many of us consider money a taboo subject, not to be discussed with others.
Mental health disorders, such as depression and anxiety, can make it harder to earn and manage money. There’s often a strong temptation to go it alone, but bottling things up will only worsen financial stress. Speaking openly about financial problems can help put things in perspective. Reaching out is not a sign of weakness and chatting with a trusted friend or family member is a proven means of stress relief.
The wrong kind of therapy
Many people with poor mental health cope using unhealthy practices such as retail therapy, but more accurately called stress spending, manic spending, or depression spending.
Retail therapy means purchasing material items to temporarily alleviate the burdens that mental illnesses produce. The small rush of dopamine you get from making a purchase can provide a temporary ‘high’ and can be addictive. Retail therapy differs from typical weekly errands because emotions rather than needs trigger it. It can cause additional mental health problems for the spender if it results in or worsens debt, which is a common outcome given the addictive nature of retail therapy.
Explore this tool to learn more about healthy and unhealthy coping mechanisms and the ways that they affect stress.
Covid-19 and financial instability
Of course, I can’t write about mental health without mentioning Covid-19. The coronavirus pandemic has been a significant threat to physical and mental health. The pandemic’s impact on wellbeing has been discussed at length by many experts, and no doubt there will continue to be many necessary studies and reports on the topic. Many of us had never experienced such a large-scale disruption to social and economic systems before now, so it’s natural that you may be feeling its effects in ways that are new for you. If this is the case for you, you are very much not alone.
The measures brought in since March 2020 to manage the coronavirus pandemic have also brought financial vulnerability into people’s lives, many for the first time. During multiple lockdowns, many people became unemployed as businesses closed overnight and employers and employees alike were faced with an endless road of uncertainty. Some industries and professions are still waiting to be allowed to reopen and get back to business, and with the pandemic unemployment payment being reduced from 14th September, those who are unable to go back to work will have further financial strain put upon them.
Financial planning and peace of mind
Getting practical advice from an expert is always a good idea. Some money difficulties are easier to solve than others, but simply starting by tracking your finances in detail can help you regain a much-needed sense of control over the situation. If we can keep ourselves from needlessly facing significant financial issues, we can eliminate a major risk factor for mental health difficulties.
Financial education is synonymous with budgeting and building savings. There are many smartphone apps available that can help you keep track of your finances. Getting financial advice helps reduce the impact of financial difficulties on wellbeing. MABS is a great place to get impartial advice for those facing severe financial difficulties and problem debt.
Of course, financial wellbeing is only one part of a much bigger picture when it comes to mental health. If you or somebody you know is struggling, there are many services out there that can provide support and guidance:
The first – and, arguably, hardest and bravest – step is reaching out and asking for help. You don’t have to go it alone, and you shouldn’t try to either.
Client Services Executive
Metis Ireland Financial Planning Ltd t/a Metis Ireland is regulated by the Central Bank of Ireland.
All content provided in these blog posts is intended for information purposes only and should not be interpreted as financial advice. You should always engage the services of a fully qualified financial adviser before entering any financial contract. Metis Ireland Financial Planning Ltd t/a Metis Ireland will not be held responsible for any actions taken as a result of reading these blog posts.