VICIOUS CIRCLE Financial stress can cause anxiety and depression, and anxiety and depression can cause financial stress – and each can make the other worse.
Even though mental-health issues and money difficulties often go hand in hand, financial stress is a side of mental health that is not usually taken into consideration. Naturally, the focus is often on helping a person to feel better and to overcome their mental-health issues as they manifest themselves. But gnawing away at them in the background could be serious money worries.
Living with a mental-health issue is enough on its own. It can overtake everything else in terms of importance and priority. But as time goes by, and money becomes tighter and tighter, this adds another layer of stress that can make the original mental-health issue worse.
We know that money struggles can lead to things like depression or anxiety, but the opposite is also true, that mental-health difficulties can lead to money problems.
Imagine living with depression. It becomes increasingly difficult to go to work. You might be forced to take extended leave, or you might stop going to work altogether. Bills start piling up. The mortgage payments fall behind. Your relationship struggles to survive all of this and you end up separating. You move out, and now you have another set of bills to contend with.
Your energy levels and motivation are so low that you don’t reach out for support, for help with your finances or for help with your mental health. You are struggling to get up and go about your day.
On top of this, financial difficulty has been shown to drastically reduce recovery rates for common mental-health conditions. Life feeling out of control, a tendency to want to avoid further problems, low self-esteem, low energy levels, a panicked search for quick fixes, a lack of support or help – all of these can conspire to worsen the financial situation, which in turn causes poorer mental health. It’s a vicious circle.
What do you do? It’s like the chicken and the egg. Which comes first? Do you deal with the money issues first? Or your mental health?
There is no one-size-fits-all solution here, but the key is to do something. Even something small is beneficial.
Muster all your energy and, for example, go to the doctor for a full check-up, or call or visit MABS (the State’s Money Advice and Budgeting Service), or tell someone you trust about how things really are for you, or go to social welfare to find out about any entitlements, or get your name on a counselling waiting list. Don’t rush, even doing one of those options a week will make a huge difference.
Sometimes the stress can make the situation feel like an emergency – it can feel like everything has to be sorted out straight away. But this can become overwhelming, and as a result none of the steps that you can take towards changing your situation are taken. Nothing gets done.
Find one thing that works for you, and do that.
Then lay low, take a break, and when you feel ready again, do one more thing.
If any of this sounds like you, check out the the MABS website, www.mabs.ie; the Irish Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy, www.iacp.ie; the Citizens’ Information page on the Irish Social Welfare system, and how to make a payment claim; or search ‘Debt’ on Mental Health Ireland’s page, www.mentalhealthireland.ie/a-to-z/debt.
Jannah Walshe is a fully accredited psychotherapist, course facilitator and mental-health speaker based in Co Mayo. More information about Jannah can be found at www.jannahwalshe.ie.