Debt and mental health

Gives information about where you can get support with - and out of - debt when you have a mental health problem.

About debt

If you already have a mental health problem being in debt can make you feel worse.

[When I was unwell] I spent so much money – you've no idea how much money – and got myself very seriously into debt. I ordered so many things from catalogues and would do quite a lot of gambling...

If your mental health fluctuates, being in debt can bring on a bad episode. If you experience anxiety or depression, you may feel tempted to ignore the problem and hope that it will go away. You may become too afraid to open any official-looking envelopes or answer the phone. For help with these feelings see managing your money.

If you are in financial difficulty, you may feel ashamed or scared and not want to talk to others about it. There are sources of help that will allow you to regain control and will not be judgemental.

What is debt?

Being in debt means that you owe somebody money. Owing money is not in itself a problem. Many people owe money such as a mortgage, use credit and other financial services and are able to manage their finances without any worries.

When is debt a problem?

If you do not have enough money to pay for all the things that are essential, like food, rent and bills and to make the minimum repayments on all your debts then you may have problem debt. There are steps that you can take to prevent your debts becoming out of control.

Do you have a problem?

To work out whether the money you owe is likely to cause you problems you can take the Money Advisory Service Debt Test or use the  Debt Remedy Tool from StepChange, the debt charity.

What if you do have a problem?

If you've decided that you do have problem debt, there is a lot you can do about it and the earlier you start the better. Facing up to a difficult situation may not be easy but you are likely to feel better once you have a plan of action. Citizen's AdviceNational Debtline or another free, independent, confidential face-to-face advice service will be able to help.

If you are happy talking to someone on the phone, you could contact National Debtline, whose advisers can talk through your concerns with you. The National Debtline has a self help pack that contains all the information and standard letters you need to deal with your own debt problem. The pack shows you:

  • how to work out your personal budget
  • how to decide which debts to deal with first (priority debts)
  • how to work out offers of payment
  • how to deal with court procedures.

If you would prefer, you could ask a friend or family member,  your local Mind, local advocacy service or other support service to help you contact someone for help. For details of your local Mind see Mind in your area.

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