Mental Health awareness week falls every year in May in the UK. If you live abroad, it might happen at a different date. This year, for instance, the MHA organisation, Mental Health America, has been celebrating 70 years of mental health month awareness as the US have made it their priority to put mental health needs on the agenda since 1949. Through humour, patience and care, the MHA has been exploring the silent enemy that affect millions of people in the world, providing support and explanation to those who need it. In the UK, the Mental Health Foundation celebrates the same milestone and shares the same achievements and challenges. We live in an era where we can’t ignore mental health anymore.
Indeed, mental health problems cost the British economy around £94 billion a year, according to the OECD – Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development. The burden affects one person in six. However, despite raising awareness about the issues we still fail to tackle it effectively. The report compares European countries, showing that there has not been any successful model to help people. Anxiety, depressive disorders, bullying, and isolation are some of the most common complaints. But how many of us take the time to understand the triggers behind mental health issues? Brexit, as it happens, has been shown to increase anxiety and depression disorders in the UK. But one of the most commonly ignored triggers for a mental health downfall is money. Indeed, if you thought that receiving your credit bills was unpleasant enough, you ought to know that in the UK only, over 8.3 million of individuals are unable to pay off their debts, according to the NAO – National Office Audit. With the average household debt hitting the record amount of £15,400, money problems don’t just keep people awake at night. They eat their lives and happiness away. Debts need to become our top priority in the fight against mental health isolation and stigma. Not only can they handicap your everyday life, but they also lead to severe emotional and psychological disorders that could cost you your job, family, and even life.
Whether you have a talent for crunching numbers or not, there’s one truth that everybody understands. Minus figures refer to something you don’t have. As a result, they throw your household budget out of balance. While it’s easy to manage everyday expenses when you can deduct them from your monthly income, it’s another kettle of fish when it comes to managing debts. People who have a visual approach to problems – aka who needs to see to understand and manage – struggle to handle a negative figure. As a result, it can feel as if you are constantly losing control because whatever income systematically disappears in an area you can’t physically see or touch. Experts such as McCarthy Law Debt Settlement Law Office are the first to explain that many of their clients have difficulties visualising the debts, which makes it impossible for them to settle. Consequently, they live always in fear of losing control of their lives, as it feels to them as if an invisible monster were targeting them at random.
Giving makes you happy
If you’re a naturally generous personality, making gifts could be an essential element of your everyday life. There is a lot of joy in making presents. But when you’re dealing with debts, you have to change your habits. Unfortunately, changing habits is more easily said than done. Ultimately, the act of giving serves many purposes. It’s your way of letting others know that you care for them. It’s an extension of your personality. As a result, giving less is, in practice, denying your true self. Imagine living a life when you can never be yourself. Needless to say, it can cause self-doubts, anxiety, and unhappiness. You can, however, find a way forward by changing the way you give, rather than eliminating presents altogether. For instance, making gifts on a budget requires creativity and effort, but it isn’t an impossible challenge. Have you considered craft? Homemade gifts are not only more personal, but they are also an inexpensive way of telling someone you think of them.
It stops you from belonging
People are social creatures. We need to belong to a community. Social integration acts as an anchor to your personal growth and development. In other words, we all want to be loved and noticed by others. Belonging, however, happens at a variety of levels, from your social background to your belief. But in recent years, belonging also relies on the things you own, your belongings. You need them to be part of your community. It’s no wonder than your local Apple store attracts a long queue of people each time the brand launches a new smartphone; our capitalistic values tap into our desire to integrate into our society. The same principle applies to many of the things we buy, from your car to your favourite fashion brand. But when you can’t afford to buy those things anymore, mentally, you can feel isolated from the rest of the population. Unlike loneliness, which you can break by seeing other people, isolation is a state of mind in which you feel unable to reach out to others. It drives loneliness, depression and unhappiness.
You are ashamed of your financial inaptitude
The art of adulting should be an entire series of books and podcasts on its own. Nobody is truly prepared for the challenges of growing up. New responsibilities to manage can take you by surprise, at first. Managing your finances is one of those essential skills you need to acquire as an adult. However, the vast majority of parents would rather talk about sex with their teens than about investing, which leaves you utterly unprepared for the money matters. Debts shouldn’t, of course, be blamed on your parents. However, it’s fair to say that a little chat about the dos and don’ts of money management could have prevented many problems. As an adult struggling with debts, you feel inept to the world around you. Failure to keep your budget in the green can make you feel inadequate and ashamed. You experience your financial mistakes as a failure to be the responsible adult society expects.
It drives high anxiety disorders
Everybody has experienced anxiety. Anxiety is a natural and normal sensation that is triggered to alert you about an imminent danger. It increases your blood pressure and boosts your senses. Typically, it should happen just before an exam or a job interview. It’s a way for your brain to give you a better chance of handling the flight or fight situation. However, when anxiety turns into an everyday occurrence and prevents you from living your life, it becomes a significant problem. Debts can lead to high-stress levels that have lasting consequences on your health. Indeed, more and more individuals report panic attacks, substance abuse, and insomnia as a direct result of their financial situation. There is a delicate balancing act between money alertness and money anxiety. You want to worry enough about your credit score to consider taking actions to improve it but not to the point where it steals your sleep, appetite and joie de vivre.
It’s been linked more than once to suicides
Suicide is a heartbreaking subject, not only for those who are left behind but also for the person who can’t find any other way out than death. Typically, suicide is linked to health disorders, both physical and mental. It is, for some patients with terminal diseases, the only honourable way out they can conceive. They want to be in charge of when to go, as a way of winning over the condition. However, for people struggling with mental health disorders, suicide could and should have been avoided. Indeed, depression and anxiety are often connected with the art of taking your own life. But more often than not, financial problems trigger your depression in the first place. It can seem silly to say that money drives people to kill themselves, but it is, unfortunately, a too frequent occurrence. Debts can act like the cancer of the mind, making it seems like there is no other way out than escaping your very life.
It’s a love-hate relationship
Lloyds bank has been running a campaign about money, called the M word. It’s a tongue-in-cheek advertising campaign designed to make people aware of their discomfort talking about finances. You might have come across the ads on TV. It’s fair to say that money talks are not our favourite chats. Whether we’re discussing income, savings, or expenses, nobody likes to share real numbers. While we all love the idea of making more money, we hate talking about it openly. It is a secretive and taboo subject. As a result, the strange love-hate relationship we’ve got with it can affect our psyche, making us feel guilty for seeking guidance and reassurance.
Debts don’t just turn your life upside down. They can affect the way you perceive yourself and your relationships with others. From the depths of depression to the loneliness of social isolation, debts can wrap you in a slow and deadly mental health embrace. It’s time we start acting against it!