Finance guru Martin Lewis described the link between mental illness and debt as a “marriage made in hell” in the Telegraph earlier this year. The piece states that people with mental health issues are four to six times more likely to have some form of debt crisis than those without.
It’s a cyclical and deadly problem, because both sides of the issue feed each other. For those vulnerable to mental health fluctuations, debt can accelerate the feelings. Those who are depressed or suffering from anxiety might feel extra feelings of pressure and helplessness, especially if people they’ve never met contact them on the telephone at inopportune moments representing creditors and asking for the return of their money. Those strong emotions associated with clinical illness may lead to more debt, and so the struggle continues.
That cycle has also been found in universities, perhaps unsurprisingly when one considers the high levels of debt that many 21st Century students are enduring. A recent study by the University of Southampton and Solent NHS Trust, reported in The Independent, found those undergraduates with higher levels of debt were more likely to suffer from stress and depression, and those who already suffered from anxiety and alcoholism. In addition, nearly two-thirds of students reported in a separate survey that they were concerned about their finances all of the time or very often.
The Charity Mind has a whole section on the link between debt and mental health on its website, while Lewis himself has set up the Money and Mental Health Institute, designed to focus on forming workable solutions to prevent the escalation of debt in those with mental health problems.
However, one of the most problematic aspects of dealing with this issue will be getting sufferers to admit that they have an issue. People don’t like admitting that they can’t cope with debt, and there is still a stigma over suffering from depression or other mental health problems. Therefore, finding someone to admit to both in tandem will be particularly tough. They may not seek help, and might not act on it even if they do seek it. Certainly, case studies are at a premium, and these are the stories that might convince others who realise they are in a comparable state to come forward.
Another recent survey found that statistically a staggering one million adults in Scotland believe they have a debt problem, and of those three-quarters of those worry about that debt all or most of the time. Only 5% don’t worry about their debts. Of course mental health is a spectrum and not all those who are worrying about their financial situations will have mental health problems, but a further question discovered that 800,000 people who said they had a debt problem also admitted their mental well being had suffered, as well as their sleep patterns and relationships with those close to them.
So what happens now? The first step is recognising that there is a problem, and the evidence is overwhelming. The next is for those suffering to find solutions to both aspects of their situation, either together or singly. There is usually some way of alleviating the issues of debt, through consolidation or a debt management plan that brings debts together into an unsecured loan. This might provide some form of short-term help for the person’s finances, but may not solve the underlying problems of the mental health issues. The hope is that Mr Lewis’ new initiative can find some of the answers.Trackbacks are closed, but you can post a comment.