Money and mental health
Gives information about the relationship between money worries and mental health
About these pages
Managing personal finances and good mental health go hand in hand – problems with either make dealing with the other more difficult.
Personal finances and mental health often have a strong impact on each other. If you are struggling to keep control of your money, you may find that your mental health is affected. Likewise, if you find that you cannot cope with your feelings or behaviour, you may find that you get into financial difficulties.
This section, kindly supported by the Royal Bank of Scotland, contains a range of pages that explain how mental health can affect your finances, and give tips on how to manage your money if you do experience mental distress. You can also download our booklet Keeping on top of your finances.
More on money and mental health
How mental health problems can affect your finances
Mental health problems are common. Unfortunately, if you become unwell you may neglect your personal finances and create more difficulties for you to tackle when you recover.
Your mental health does fluctuate … the actual debt and my mental health feed off each other. – Mind focus group participant
Many common mental health problems are likely to make it more difficult to manage your money because of the nature of the symptoms you are likely to experience.
Some mental health problems can result in people making rash or unwise decisions about their finances, such as spending money they cannot afford, while others make it particularly difficult to have the energy to keep track of money. If you are very ill, it can be necessary for someone else to take control of your money for a time.
Here are some specific ways that mental health problems may affect your finances:
- If your ability to work is affected there may be a sudden or, possibly, dramatic reduction in your income.
- If you spend time away from home, for example while you are cared for in hospital, it may be difficult to keep up to date with your financial commitments.
- If you have symptoms such as mania your capacity to make financial decisions may be affected as you might act recklessly or unwisely.
- If you have symptoms of depression you may lose the motivation or the ability to concentrate to keep control of your finances.
- If you are unable to make decisions for yourself for any reason could be more vulnerable to financial exploitation or abuse.
If you have bipolar disorder (formerly known as manic depression) you are likely to experience swings in mood from periods of overactive, excited behaviour known as mania to deep depression. Between these severe highs and lows can be stable times. You may also see or hear things that others around them don't (known as having visual or auditory hallucinations) or have strange, unshared, beliefs (known as delusions).
During a manic episode you may be quite unaware that your actions are not in your best interests. This can include spending sums of money you do not have, wanting to take out loans and making far-reaching decisions such as selling property to finance a new business or deciding to leave a job.
After a manic episode, you may find yourself wanting to hide away, and avoid contact with people. This may include not managing your finances – including any decisions that you may have made while experiencing mania.
You may find it helpful to talk to a friend or relative when you are feeling well about what you would like them to do if they see that you are having a manic episode. This can help to avoid making bad financial decisions. In some cases, you may wish to give someone formal powers, such as a Lasting Power of Attorney.
If you experience depression, you may find it difficult to have the energy to manage your finances, or to care about money at all. If your depression is long-lasting, you may find it difficult to earn money through working.
You may feel that you do not want to open letters from your bank or not have the energy to pay bills or cash cheques.
Treatment for depression may also have an impact on how much money you have. You be prescribed anti-depressant drugs that can have unpleasant side effects meaning that you are unable to work. You may also be paying for counselling or other therapies.
If you don’t feel able to manage your finances, it is important to get support from friends or family, or from other resources like your local Mind.
Capacity and hospital admission
If you are admitted to hospital due to mental health problems, or otherwise are unable to make decisions for yourself, you may have control over your finances taken away.
If you become too ill to have the make decisions for yourself, others can make them for you. Making an advance statement allows you to set out the detail of the care and treatment you would like (or refuse to have) if you are no longer able to make decisions yourself.
You may also use an advance statement to list any interventions that you find useful to avert a crisis or at least ensure that if you do go into hospital or lose control of your finances your recovery is as speedy as possible. It is a good idea to involve your carers in the drawing up of an advance statement so that they are clear what your wishes are. For more information, see Legal briefing: advance directives, Legal briefing: financial decisions under the Mental Capacity Act 2005 and Mind rights guide 3: consent to medical treatment.
How money problems can affect your mental health
The stress and worry associated with trying to maintain control over your expenditure and keep your household running can result in:
- Worsened symptoms of depression such as inadequacy, despair and pessimism about the future.
- Increased anxiety due to fear of the consequences of getting into debt
- Conflict with, or between, family members that makes you feel worse
- Giving up control of your financial affairs
- Worrying about whether you should ask for help in case people judge you or make you do things
There are practical steps that can be taken to address problems with debt. By following them, you are likely to be able to improve your financial situation and improve your mental health.
Tips for managing money
This page provides useful tips on how to manage your money – even if you are not feeling well.
Here’s a list of things you can check each week to help you keep track of things. Print this page out and put it up in place where you can easily see it, such as your fridge, as a reminder. Try to choose a regular time to look at your money and bills each week, maybe with someone who can help, so that things don’t pile up and start to feel too big to cope with.
- Know how much money you have – check bank account balances and count your cash, before spending.
- Check you have enough money for essentials like food and toiletries – if you don’t, get urgent advice from your local Citizens Advice or social security office.
- Collect any money due to you e.g. wages, benefits.
- Open your post – it isn’t always easy to face bills, but it will help you know where you stand. You could ask someone you trust to do it with you.
- Get advice – there are many organisations who can help you sort out your finances e.g. Citizen’s Advice or Money Advice Service.
- Deal with bills – if you can pay, do so. If you can’t, contact those you owe and explain your circumstances.
- Review your circumstances – if your income, spending or needs have changed, you may need to tell people you owe money to or who pay you benefits.
- Stay organised – put all important records and documents, e.g. payslips, bank statements, bills, receipts etc. in one place, so that you can find them easily again.
Money and mental health affect each other: problems with one make the other one more difficult to manage.
It’s a double edged sword…you get depressed and then you spend, or you spend too much, which makes you depressed. It’s a vicious cycle… but it’s a major problem for a lot of people who have mental health problems.
Keeping track of your finances can be difficult at the best of times. When life gets stressful, paying your bills and managing your money can become even harder. What matters is that you take action as soon as you begin to find it difficult to cope.
I always found opening letters from the bank upsetting. But when I sat down with my advocate to go through them, it took a lot of worry away.
Address issues when you are well. This will often help both your financial situation and mental health when you are not so well.
We try to stick to the budget. We know exactly how much a month goes out in standard bills. We work out how much money we need for food and clothing, then try to save some for emergencies.
The Royal Bank of Scotland Group has kindly supported the production of this information.
Published by Mind © Mind 2011
This information was written by Sam Challis, Mind.
ISBN – 978-1-906759-32-2
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