Lack of sleep, anxiety, depression, low self-esteem, paranoia and hopelessness. When asked, the average Canadian might associate these as symptoms of poor mental health. While that statement would be true, these emotions are also common symptoms of poor financial health.
The relationship between one’s financial and mental health is a close one. And while over the last 10 years various initiatives, campaigns and brave individuals have allowed the conversation around mental health to become one that is not shied away from, there is still a lack of public knowledge about how the state of one’s finances can negatively affect not only their mental health but their overall wellbeing.
Financial Stress is More Common Than You Think
With the average Canadian household owing $1.77 for every dollar made, it isn’t surprising that 50% of Canadians agree that their level of debt is causing them stress (Ipsos, 2018). Loans, credit card payments, mortgages, and simply trying to keep up with social media are just a few triggers of financial stress that impact Canadians of all income levels and age groups.
When you add in a high level of debt, a restricted income and various financial responsibilities into the mix, financial stress only increases. According to Statistics Canada, 44% of Canadians say it would be difficult for them to meet their financial obligations if their pay is late (2019). That statistic is not only concerning since it reveals that a large percentage of Canadians are living paycheque to paycheque, but also because that is a lot of stress for an individual to manage.
Poor Financial Health and Poor Mental Health is a Two-Way Street
People that are struggling with their finances admit that their mental health is compromised because of it. Approximately 48% of Canadians say they’ve lost sleep because of financial worries (Stats Canada, 2019) and 40% of Canadians (Ipsos, 2018) agree that their level of debt is negatively affecting their mental health. Having multiple bills to pay and loans hanging over your head can cause you to feel more stress and anxiety, impacting your mental health more negatively than without financial worries.
When people come into our offices, it is often apparent through conversation that their mental health has been suffering because of their financial situation or that there is an underlying mental health issue that may be affecting their financial wellbeing. Generally, the relationship between one’s debt and mental health is a two-way street and can turn into a problematic cycle if not addressed.
There are also situations where someone’s mental health may affect their financial stability. If someone is feeling depressed or anxious, there is a chance that they will turn to overspending to make themselves feel better. While there is nothing wrong with treating yourself every now and then, impulse buying or consistent “retail therapy” can negatively affect your savings, your debt levels and your credit score. If you are spending on things you cannot afford, you can also feel guilty towards your actions, as you may not only be lying to yourself about your financial situation but a spouse or partner as well. This, in turn, could affect not only your mental health but potentially your relationships.
If someone is living with a mental illness and does not have access to proper treatment, they may need to take time off work or have trouble keeping a job. This can play a large factor in how much income and financial security one has as they try to pay debt payments on top of living expenses while on a fixed or restricted income.
Tips for Managing Your Finances to Improve Your Mental Health
If you are willing to put in the time and effort, there are a few simple ways to take control of your financial health, in turn improving your mental health as well. It can be a very empowering feeling to be the one that is responsible for getting your health back on track.
The first step is to get organized. Getting a copy of your credit report and score, having a record of who you owe and making a basic budget of your income and expenses will allow you to have a better idea of your financial situation. Laying everything out on the table will be overwhelming, but it will also help put things into perspective.
The next step is to ask for help. Whether you are struggling with mental or financial health, it is important to know when to ask for help. It is easy to find yourself or someone you know in a situation that requires the help of a professional. Although talking to a professional may seem intimidating, it doesn’t have to be. There is no shame in asking for help when it comes to your finances, just like there is no shame in asking for help with your mental health.
There are great resources like credit counsellors, financial planners, and Licensed Insolvency Trustees who work with people in similar situations every day. As Licensed Insolvency Trustees, we offer services, from budgeting to financial counselling and planning, that can really help you understand your financial situation, and determine what steps you need to take to get back in control of your finances.
If you are struggling with your mental health or with a mental illness, it’s also okay to bring along a trusted partner, family member or friend who can be there for support. When looking at solutions for your finances, there can be a lot of information to process so having an extra pair of ears to help you break down that information can be extremely helpful.
If you do decide to visit us at Grant Thornton or any other regulated professional, don’t be afraid to disclose your mental health problems. We simply want to help you the best we can, and if we need to take a different approach or work alongside a family member, we are more than happy to accommodate that as well.
Paying close attention to your financial and mental health is essential. While initiatives like Bell Let’s Talk and Mental Health Week provide outlets to create conversation and bring awareness to the issues people are facing, it’s important to know that you are not alone when it comes to overwhelming financial stress. At Grant Thornton, we are here to help. There are actions and resources you can take to not only lower your financial stress but improve your mental health as well.