Mental health, debt and ‘breathing space: what it all means.

The Money and Mental Health Policy Institute (started by Martin Lewis, Money Saving Expert) have found data suggesting that 23,000 people in hospital for a mental health problem were being hounded by banks, credit card companies and local authorities for payment, despite their conditions.

Charities, like Mind and Rethink Mental Illness, are joining the MMHPI in calling for a ‘breathing space’ scheme whereby these organisations would stop charging people interest, charges and fees for a certain amount of time if they approached them for help and support.

As someone who’s been on the receiving end of banks and credit card company houndings, this is definitely good to hear. It should also be extended to those who have been diagnosed by their GP and going through treatment and Community Mental Health Teams too. Just because you’re at home, doesn’t mean you’re coping or dealing with life as well as you could be.

I used to do things like:

  • Ignore statements from the bank and hide them in the wardrobe
  • Not answer the phone for fear of it being the bank
  • Ring the bank for advice, listen to what they had to say, but not do any of it
  • Pay back some of my credit cards but re-spend again when I had no money
  • Go on a spending spree because I needed cheering up and not feel bad about it until I had to face the statements

It sucked. Royally. However, the bank did not help because:

  • They never asked why I was spending so much so quickly
  • They automatically increased the credit card limits so I would spend more money (I think this should stop happening as it’s taking advantage)
  • They never signposted me to any other agencies who could help

Back in December, I wrote a blog for the Huffington Post about what it was like having a mental health condition and being in debt. Many of you guys reading this may well have been in that position before, not wanting to face your money matters head on or worrying so much about them that you make yourself sick or have panic attacks.

To me, this ‘Breathing Space’ scheme seems like a positive move in bringing mental health and debt into the public eye and get people talking about it. Government now needs to listen. It could help so many people. It could ultimately save lives.

My advice if you’re in this debt spiral:

  • Don’t hide your bank statements
  • Ask a trusted family member or friend for help
  • Go to a charity like Mind or StepChange who can give you guidance or even Citizen’s Advice
  • Look up information on budgeting and see if you can give it a go
  • Cut up your credit cards
  • Give your debit card to a loved one and use cash

I’m slowly working myself out of my ‘bad debt’ (credit cards, overdrafts) so I can pay more off my ‘good debt’ (mortgage, house stuff) which is quite a nice feeling. I still don’t feel like I’m good with money but I’m getting better.

YOU CAN DO IT. You have the power to change things 🙂

Mental health, money & me

We’ve just come back from Christmas shopping & it was the hardest thing. Generally, 50% of people are traumatised by festive shoppers but this is different.

Because of my mood highs & lows, I tend to spend lots of money. I tend to spend more money than I can afford on things that I don’t really need but that make me feel better at that time. In short, I have no concept of money & will happily spend hundreds of pounds of money on clothes, presents, books. You name it, I’ll have a reason in my mind to buy it.

In the past I’ve racked up so much debt that it’s made my anxiety go through the roof but at the time of spending, I wouldn’t even think about it. A sense of how much or what on wouldn’t phase me.

I’d pay some of the bill off each month but always spent more than I paid back. One vicious cycle. One hideous problem.

This was me today…

Hiding how twitchy & upset behind the shades. They’re my saving grace on many levels. I’m not great with bright lights anyway but today was a case of doing some hiding.

Only when I met Karl did I actually tell him. I hadn’t told anyone before. I was ashamed of the habit I’d gotten myself into at University. It was the making of me & the breaking of my bank account.

And speaking of banks, all they did was extend my overdraft & credit card limits, despite me ringing at all times of the day to ask what I could do about it. I was like a drug addict going cold turkey.

My partner just so happens to be a whizz with numbers so he was straight into helping me, creating a budget, a list each month of what I wanted to buy that month etc. I handed over my cards to him & decided having a limited amount of cash so when i was spent up, I was spent up. Generally, it works well.

I’m:

  • Better with the concept of money
  • I only spend what I have on me
  • I value my money more
  • I’m more organised with what I want to buy
  • I pay my bills on time

However, mentally:

  • It’s like withdrawal
  • All I can think about is spending
  • I sulk
  • I try to rationalise it in my head but it’s like a Wimbledon tennis match

I’m trying. My partner jokingly always says ‘Why yes you are’. He also tells me I am doing well but I don’t feel it.

I have, however, shared my story with the mental health charity, Hafal. They’ve launched a money advice service with Lloyd’s Bank to help people like me. It’s UK wide & could really help if you’re like me & want help.

The website is called the Mental Health & Money Advice Service.Take look. It might not help you but it might help someone you know.