Tackle your finances and boost your mental health
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As a nation, there’s no denying that we’re slowly getting better at talking about our mental health – but money is an area that many of us are not quite so good at discussing. Indeed, a report carried out by YouGov and commissioned by Lloyds Bank revealed that a staggering 50 per cent of UK adults said that talking about personal money matters is taboo in everyday conversation.
However, not talking about money can have a hugely damaging impact; savings, mortgages, bills, bank accounts and so on can be daunting prospects, and if we keep our concerns to ourselves, it’s all too easy for the pressure to mount up.
The Money and Mental Health Policy Institute was set up by Martin Lewis, better known as the Money Saving Expert, in a bid to change this. It is an independent charity that carries out a huge amount of research to better understand the link between money and mental health, with a survey group of over 5,000 people. They’ve found that people in problem debt are nearly two-and a-half times as likely to experience mental health problems, and shockingly nearly three times as likely to have considered suicide.
‘If you think about it, it’s very easy to see how struggles with money and debt can affect your mental health,’ reasons Brian Semple from the organisation. ‘Some people have said that they feel a sense of shame, and the taboo around it means that people will often deal with it on their own.’
However, a key area of focus for the charity is that there is often a cyclical relationship between money and mental health – whilst money troubles can lead to mental health problems, existing poor mental health can also mean that you are more likely to struggle with your finances. Research by the Money and Mental Health Policy Institute says that people with poor mental health are nearly twice as likely to live in poverty, and nearly three and a half times as likely to have fallen into problem debt.
‘There are a number of symptoms that people often experience and which can affect their ability to both earn and manage money,’ Brian says. ‘It’s things like low motivation, difficulties concentrating and reduced memory.’ Furthermore, if you’re suffering from illnesses like anxiety and depression, it can be hard to pick up the phone to discuss a bill with your water or gas company, or to go into your local bank to ask for assistance. In other words, money and mental health are not mutually exclusive – often, you simply cannot maintain one without the other.
Fortunately, a huge amount of work is being done to break this cycle. The Money and Mental Health Policy Institute have launched the first ever Mental Health Accessibility Standards, which have been carefully designed to help essential service businesses to become more accessible for those who are struggling with their mental health. ‘Another of the things we’ve been calling for is for banks to give customers more tools to help them manage their spending and to block things like gambling if that’s a problem,’ Brian adds.
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The Money Saving Expert have an advice booklet on their website, whilst other organisations such as The Money Charity offer free, unbiased advice too. Lloyds Bank also recently launched their ‘M Word’ campaign in partnership with the relationship charity Relate, which is all about getting people to talk about money more within their relationships.
It’s definitely time for us to get talking about money – it doesn’t have to be a taboo subject because it’s something that impacts each and every one of us. There’s no doubt that the consequences of going it alone, and letting the worries build up, can be far more damaging.