Money and poor Mental Health

gas-1 Photo by Mykola Makhlai on Unsplash

Keeping warm in cold weather and being able to eat hot food is important to everyone. 

We depend on gas and electricity to cook and heat out our homes. To guarantee this, means knowing you have enough money to pay your energy bills.

To feel safe and guarantee this means knowing you have money set aside to pay your energy charges every month. The uncertainty of not having enough money, can for some feel personally threatening. 

Feeling threatened triggers stress. Over time, stretch pressure changes to strain pressure. If this continues, you are at risk of feeling overwhelmed with worry thoughts that feel impossible to stop. 

That is when poor Mental Health hits you.

                                                                                                              Photo by Towfiqu barbhuiya on Unsplash

Research shows money stress can make people up to 20 times more likely to make a suicide attempt. 

While many of us are keenly aware of how financial stress impacts our lives, most people don't know that financial hardship is a major risk factor for suicide. Studies show that people who struggle with debt are more likely to suffer from depression. Depression is strongly linked to suicide.

There are a number of ways in which someone's financial circumstances can put them at risk of becoming suicidal, according to the Money and Mental Health Policy Institute. 

They include long-term factors such as persistent poverty and financial insecurity, as well as sudden triggers such as "intimidating and threatening letters" people receive from lenders. The text is often preceded by threats of court action at the top of letters, and embedded within longer statements featuring complex information about the individual's debt.

Royal College of Psychiatry says that:

  • One in four adults will have a mental health problem at some point in their life.
  • One in two adults with debts has a mental health problem.
  • One in four people with a mental health problem is also in debt.

Debt can make you feel that everything is out of control and there is nothing you, or anyone else, can do about it. Feeling hopeless, especially if your debt is getting worse. Embarrassed to talk to anyone about your financial situation. Guilt - that the problem is your fault, even though it's been caused by poor Mental Health.

                                                                                                                    Photo by Mathieu Stern on Unsplash

Let's now explore further the complex relationship between Money and Mental Health.

Public Health and Geoffrey Rose's Public Health prevention theory.

"Sick individuals and sick populations" was written by Geoffrey Rose in 1985. It is one of the most influential public health papers ever written. Rose stated that there is a distinction between the causes of illness at the individual level and causes at the population level.

Here is the (academic) theory. Rose's "population strategy" of prevention refers to:

1.Prevention activities that target a whole population regardless of variation in individuals' risk status.

2.An individual high-risk prevention strategy targets individuals identified (e.g. thorough screening) as having elevated risk for some adverse health outcome. 

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Stroke prevention can be achieved by GP's checking your blood pressure. If your blood pressure is too high, the risk is high, they then prescribe medication.So, for those individuals at risk of strokes, they are stroke prevented or at least risk reduced. This is Rose's high-risk strategy prevention strategy.

In prevention activities that target a whole population, large numbers of people must participate in a preventive strategy that directly benefits relatively few. 

Rose suggested we target everyone. It does not matter who is at more risk. Being overweight, eating too much salt, not doing enough exercise or drinking too much alcohol are all risk factors for blood pressure problems. 

So Rose suggests if communities in Cumbria all try to follow a healthy lifestyle, there will be a significant drop in population unhealthy high blood pressure.

Photo by Will Creswick on Unsplash

Let's take car accidents: In 1983 wearing seat belts became compulsory. Fatality rates among car occupants reduce the risk of death by 45%, and cut the risk of serious injury by 50%. The same principle applies to mass immunisation. Whole populations benefit but offers little to each participating individual.

The individual high risk strategy would be GP's being alert to signs of depression in their patients. Those that are diagnosed with severe depression are at high risk of feeling suicidal with the intention to end their lives. CBT, antidepressant medication or inpatient care are used as the suicide prevention strategy.

Rose's prevention strategy can be applied to Mental Health and Money.

Individual high risk strategy would be identifying those individuals who are in debt, coping badly with being in debt, unable to make gas and electricity payments and are at risk of being threatened with court action or disconnection. GPs could then clinically assess. If a diagnosable condition is present, offer psychiatric medication or Cognitive Behaviour Therapy so to prevent their Mental Health seriously worsen.

The alternate is the whole population strategy. Rather than GP's clinically identify high risk individuals, enable money experts to promote and support the whole population on money management, debt awareness and constructive engagement with their energy companies. Also enable housing and food specialists to promote home energy efficiency and home cooking efficiency.

Nikki Bond, Senior Research Officer, Money and Mental Health Policy Institute says their research has shown that people with mental health problems, such as anxiety and depression, receive average annual incomes of £8,400 less than people without those conditions. This contributes to :

  • People being three and a half times more likely to be in problem debt
  • More than twice as likely to have relied on credit or borrowing to cover everyday spending during the pandemic compared to those without mental health problems.
  • Are more financially vulnerable as the cost of living dramatically rises this year.

In April 2022, the government called for evidence for a new 10-year plan to improve Mental Health in England and its revised national suicide prevention plan. This comes at a critical moment. The huge rise in energy, fuel and food costs and the government about to set a new long term Mental Health strategy for England. The Money and Mental Health Policy Institute submitted their response. 

They have made recommendations how cross-government departments can tackle the links between money and mental health, and truly improve the nation's mental health.

Increase funding to income maximisation and money advice services: By directing more funding to income maximisation and money advice services and targeting the delivery of services through routine primary and secondary mental health care touchpoints, the DWP can reach thousands of people they might otherwise miss.

Embed routine enquiry about money worries into mental health care services The government should build enquiry about money worries into GPs and Care and Treatment Plans, with appropriate resources for signposting and referring for specialist support.

Integrate money advice support in healthcare settings supporting people with their mental health: The government should integrate welfare rights and money advice services in Mental Health care settings, such as GP surgeries, IAPT services (CBT), Community Mental Health Teams and psychiatric hospitals.

Reducing suicides by tackling financial difficulties. Over 100,000 people in England attempt suicide while in problem debt each year. More than two in five UK adults living with Mental Health problems who fell behind on bills during the pandemic considered or attempted to take their own life – amounting to 2.5 million people.

Money and Mental Health Policy Institute say that fundamental changes are needed to ensure fewer people die by suicide. Financial difficulties and problem debt should be threaded through the new 10-year Mental Health plan at all levels of intervention, from promotion, prevention, intervention, treatment and crisis support. 

If financial difficulties are only considered at the point of crisis or within the national suicide prevention plan, multiple early opportunities to address the devastating links will be missed.

                                                                                                         Photo by Sam Dan Truong on Unsplash

Here are five money tips you could use whilst supporting someone who is struggling with poor Mental Health.

Dealing with financial stress tip 1: Talk to someone : Many of us even consider money a taboo subject, one not to be discussed with others. Keeping money worries to yourself only amplifies them until they seem insurmountable. The simple act of expressing your problems to someone you trust can make them seem far less intimidating. Be honest about what you're going through and the emotions you're experiencing.

Tip 2: Take inventory of your finances :The first step to devising a plan to solve your money problems is to detail your income, debt, and spending over the course of at least one month. By taking inventory of your finances you'll have a much clearer idea of where you stand.

Tip 3: Make a plan and stick to it : Having taken inventory, you should be able to clearly identify the financial problem you're facing. The plan to address your specific problem could be to live within a tighter budget, lower the interest rate on your credit card debt, curb your online spending.

Tip 4: Create a monthly budget : Whatever your plan to relieve your financial problems,, following a monthly budget can help keep you on track and regain your sense of control. Include everyday expenses in your budget, such as groceries and the cost of traveling to work, as well as monthly rent, mortgage, and utility bills. Prioritise your spending. If you're having trouble covering your expenses each month, it can help to prioritise where your money goes first.

Tip 5: Manage your overall stress : Resolving financial problems tends to involve small steps that reap rewards over time. In the current economic climate, it's unlikely your financial difficulties will disappear overnight. But that doesn't mean you can't take steps right away to ease your stress levels and find the energy and peace of mind to better deal with challenges in the long-term.

Men, toolboxes and wellbeing
Suicide Prevention: more complex ?


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Wednesday, 21 February 2024

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