What are the Financial Implications of Having a Mental Health Condition?

Mental health and money have a direct correlation. Your mental state can make managing money easier or harder and conversely, worrying about money can make your mental state better or worse. Debt and financial stress in general can easily cause illnesses such as anxiety and depression, and can often get severe enough to lead to suicide. Studies show that “suicide is considered by almost 50% of people struggling with debt in the UK. Often the burden of debt can become too much and it’s thought the only option is to commit suicide.”


When you think about it, this makes sense, seeing as money plays such a dominant role in our society. When you look at representations of celebrities and incredibly wealthy public figures, we see many images of happiness, a ‘perfect life’. We are led to assume that it’s because they have the money to buy whatever they want. However, that’s not to say being wealthy means your mental state will always be positive; as like the famous saying suggests ‘Money Can’t Buy Happiness’, which is often why you sometimes hear about billionaires experiencing depression. Although when you think about it, when you have money, you do have one less thing weighing down on your mind. Money is truly at the core of our society.


Usually in cases of mental health conditions such as depression and anxiety, the sufferers financial wellbeing is often overlooked; poor mental health could result in “a reduced ability to earn an income, making inappropriate financial decisions, even putting themselves at risk of financial abuse from acquaintances, carers or family members”.


Reduced ability to earn an income/reduced ability to work to full potential

Using a freelance writer as an example, this is a position where you don’t get sick pay and your funds rely entirely on the work you produce. When suffering from depression and anxiety, from my own experience you’re riddled with all kinds of problems when it comes to doing your work. Problems like: writers block, oversleeping, lack of motivation and lateness; you find yourself struggling to write to your full potential or to the quality that may be expected in order for you to get paid. In some cases, you may fail to produce the work at all, thus resulting in you not being able to earn an income or your usual income being reduced greatly, meaning you have less money. Less money means you can’t afford to pay for things and when you can’t afford to pay for things, the pressure you face builds up, which causes your condition to worsen and creates a cycle, which just leads to your situation getting worse and worse.


Inappropriate financial decisions

Some mental health conditions may also cause you to make inappropriate financial decisions such as, compulsive buying and turning to retail therapy for happiness. This often happens in a bid to try everything they can to make themselves feel better, even if it’s only for a short while. People tend to buy compulsively to “get a buzz or put themselves in a better mood. They also believe the purchases could change their life, for example by transforming their appearance, self-confidence, reputation, and relationships.” Research at the University of Michigan “found that buying something was up to 40 times more effective at giving people a sense of control and they were three times happier than those who only browsed.” The problem with this however, and why it’s inappropriate is because people tend to turn to retail therapy when they can’t necessarily afford it, causing them to spend money that should have gone elsewhere, like on rent for example.

The implications of this are similar to that of the last issue.


Relationships – friends, family, housemates, partners

The financial implications of having a mental health condition, can have negative effects on one’s relationships. When you’re ability to earn money is affected, relationships can be soured because as said earlier, money is at the core of our society and even plays a part in our relationships. Lack of money due to less work and retail therapy could result in you having to borrow from people in your life to get by or missing important payments like rent. These financial implications will then not only be confined to the individual but those around the individual also, because they then have to work harder to make up for your lack in contribution. If this was in a working environment one person not being able to play their part places pressure on the whole team, sometimes compromising the whole operation, which could possibly mess with the income of the team as a whole.


Students perspective

Looking at the implications from a student’s perspective, many students who come to London have to live by themselves and work alongside their studies. According to the Telegraph London is the “fifth most expensive city for students”, “International students in London paid out a monthly average of  $ 4,672, and those from the UK paid $ 3,245.”, when you take the cost of rent, as well as textbooks, printing and travel, students are forced to live constantly with financial worries on their minds. For many students, these pressures and worries can either trigger new symptoms or heighten the symptoms of pre-existing mental health conditions. They may have trouble both at work and at university, which would have financial implications in the short and long term. They may not be able to earn enough money to live and stay healthy in London and they wouldn’t be healthy enough to pour their full potential into their university work, resulting in them not getting a good grade or even outright failing, ruining their future money making prospects. For many students of colour, they also feel pressure from their families. Being first generation british citizens they are often the first in their families to go to university so they are often burdened by the hopes and dreams of their families, which may again heighten their pre existing mental conditions.


Mental health conditions can cause severe financial harm and it may often feel like there’s no way to deal with them. For those in need of help dealing with their mental health and money problems, here’s a link to a free booklet created for people with mental health problems and those caring for them. It won’t completely rid you off your mental or financial problems but it’s a start. It covers quite a lot of ground, in terms of its content; providing information on “how to handle debts when unwell, banks, free debt counselling” and “specific tips for bipolar disorder or depression sufferers”, whether to declare a condition and more.