Money problems and poor mental wellbeing

Mental Health / Financial Health

Often, there’s a link between struggling with money and poor mental wellbeing. Feeling low can make it tough to manage money. And worrying about it can make you feel even worse. This guide is for you if you think poor mental wellbeing is affecting your money management.

What is poor mental wellbeing?

Poor mental wellbeing is when you feel sad or stressed, or are finding it difficult to cope with day-to-day life. You may feel like this for many reasons, such as loss, loneliness or, relationship issues, or money, health or work problems. Or there may be no clear reason for it.

You can have poor mental wellbeing at any time and for any length of time. Your financial situation or worries about money might be the cause. Whatever the reason, it can happen to anyone.

How poor mental wellbeing can affect the way you deal with money

Examples of the effects include:

  • Your income could go down or stop if you can’t work or have to take time off work.
  • You might spend money you don’t have on things you don’t need to make yourself feel better, but then regret it afterwards.
  • You might feel anxious or stressed about doing things like talking on the phone, going to the bank or opening your bills.
  • You might feel worried, anxious and nervous about day-to-day financial decisions you need to make – and so avoid making them.
  • You might find that spending any money at all, or being in debt makes you feel very anxious - even if you have enough money.
  • You may not have enough money to spend on essentials.
  • You may find it hard to concentrate on decisions or take in all the detailed information you need to manage your money.
  • You may forget to do things you need to do.

If you’re not sure if you have poor mental wellbeing, or if it is affecting your finances try the NHS Money Worries tool. It takes five minutes to fill out and can direct you to specific help based on your answers.

What to do if you don’t feel like doing anything

We all feel low from time to time. If you’re feeling like this, it can be easy to feel stuck as if you can’t change or improve your situation. In fact, being able to identify when you are feeling low and how this might affect your money decisions is an important skill in itself.

If you are continually feeling low and it starts affecting your day-to-day life you should seek help from your GP. It can be difficult to start that conversation with your doctor, so Mind has put together a tool called Find the Words, which will help you make the most of the few minutes you have with your GP or practise nurse.

When it comes to your money, often the sooner you begin to tackle the problem, the easier it will be to take control. That said, for some people, during certain times, finding the strength to deal with financial issues feels impossible.

Here are a few things you can do to help stay on top of things:

  • Bookmark this page so that when you do feel like tackling your financial issues, you know where to come.
  • Allow someone close to you to look after your post for you. Sometimes the thought of opening bills or statements is too much to bear.
  • Try not to ignore your creditors, as it may mean they continue to chase you, rather than giving you some breathing space to sort things out.
  • If you can’t face going in to work, make sure you contact your manager or HR department to let them know you are unwell. Some companies offer extra employee support, which is free and confidential.
  • Financial services firms and utilities companies are improving how they identify and provide support for customers’ different needs. If you feel up to it, actively contact your service provider to let them know you need more support. Ask if they have a specialist team or what they can do to help customers in your circumstances.
  • Remember, asking for support and explaining your needs can help banks and other service providers provide better customer service.
  • There are many ways to talk to your service provider. You can visit a bank branch or pick up the phone, or use its online banking or web chat services.
  • Your GP or another health professional may be able to provide a Debt and Mental Health Evidence Form, which can help make sure creditors take your mental health problems into account. But not all financial services will want to see written evidence of a mental health issue, so don’t feel you need to get the form before you talk to someone.
  • Plenty of free tools let you temporarily block websites for as long as you want. This might be useful if you use or there are things you like to buy when you are stressed.

Go to the Money and Mental Health Policy Institute website for a list of recommended tools you can use.

How to re-balance your finances when you’ve been feeling down

Poor mental wellbeing may mean you make money decisions you didn’t intend to make or, avoid making them at all. When you do feel like you can tackle your problems you need to do two things:

  • correct any damage caused
  • protect yourself from any future damage.

Here are some easy and practical things you can do:

  • Online shopping sites and browsers often remember card details to make it easier and smoother to make purchases. If you feel at risk of making impulsive spending decisions you later regret, removing the auto-filled information can help slow down your purchasing decisions. Google ‘how to clear your cookies’ to find out how to do this.
  • Call our money advisers who can help you with next steps. Or you can use our webchat service. Details are at the bottom of this page.
  • Keep your wallet out of your living room or bedroom (wherever you spend most of your time). This makes spending more difficult.
  • Consider asking your bank to add a note to your credit file (it doesn’t harm your credit record).
  • Think about ditching credit cards completely if you find them too difficult to manage. Get some free, confidential debt advice if you’re worried how you’ll pay them off.
  • Download The Wellness and Recovery Action Plan (WRAP) that was created by Mary Ellen Copeland and others who have lived experience of mental health issues themselves. It’s a self-management plan you develop yourself to maximise your personal wellness.
  • If you’ve been feeling overwhelmed, get back in control by making small meaningful steps to build your confidence. Consider making a budget that will put you in control of your household spending and analyses your results to help you take control of your money. Our budget planner, only takes 10 minutes to fill out.
  • When you’re feeling better, think about putting money aside for times when you might not be able to focus on saving. Our Savings calculator can help you understand how long it will take to save a specific amount, or how much you need to save to have enough by a particular date.
  • If you have overspent and regret it, you can cancel or return items so you get the money back.

The mental health charity Mind has a comprehensive list of coping strategies for those who suffer with poor mental wellbeing, to help you help yourself.

Benefits if you have poor mental health

If your condition persists or worsens and a mental health condition or other disability is diagnosed, you may be entitled to help with benefits.

If you are over 16 and have a diagnosed mental health problem, you may be entitled to a Personal Independence Payment (PIP) if you need help with everyday tasks. This isn’t means tested, so you may be able to get it whether or not you have an income or savings.

If you can’t work for an extended length of time because of your illness and you’re not entitled to Statutory Sick Pay (or it has run out), you might be able to claim Employment and Support Allowance or Universal Credit to help replace lost income. If you’re claiming a sickness or disability benefit, you will usually need to have a medical assessment as part of the claim process.

The Mental Health and Money Advice website has a full list of benefits you may be entitled to if you are suffering with mental health issues, or if you are a carer of someone who is struggling.

The charity Turn2us has an online calculator you can use to see what benefits you may be able to claim.

How to help someone manage their money

As friend or family member, you know the person you are worried about better than most. So you can spot changes in behaviour, sometimes before they do, that might send out warning signals.

You may want to make an agreement with them that they let you know if they seem to be becoming unwell. You could make an action plan together, for example, you could look after their credit card or bill payments when they feel unwell or help them make a GP appointment.

Getting extra support for mental health

Mental health is complex and there can be many symptoms other than feeling low. If you (or someone you care for) needs support with mental health, these organisations can help:

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Mental Health Helplines & Web Chats

Samaritans
Action Mental Health
Association for Post-Natal Illness Helpline
Aware NI - Support Groups
Aware NI - Online Support Groups
Mind - Side by Side Online Community