Sense & Centsibility Blog

Debt and Mental Well Being

It seems like I’ve had an uptick in counseling sessions where people were referred by their mental health professional.

Whether or not it is a real trend, I am very pleased. When people suffer from any number of mental health conditions, including depression, bi-polar, or anxiety, they often have accompanying debt problems.

If you’ve ever been depressed, even for a short time, you know that you let things go, like your physical well-being, social connections, and financial responsibilities.

The problem is big:

  • Ten percent of us are depressed at some time in our lives.
  • An estimated 18% of us have an anxiety disorder.
  • And 2.6% have a bipolar disorder, which is not an insignificant number of individuals — 5.7 million people.

The financial problems are not the same for everyone:

  • Could be regular bills aren’t paid because of general distress.
  • Or a real fear of what’s in the mail box that prevents even looking in it.
  • Or maybe manic overspending created a mountain of debt.

So, why am I pleased to see referrals by mental health practitioners? As financial counselors we see the effects of mental health issues on a person’s financial security and how they feed each other, compounding like the interest on their credit cards.

The longer a negative financial situation persists, the more difficult it is to regain control, the more hopeless a person feels. Sometimes the help we can provide is as simple as paring down a grocery bag of bills to a small, less intimidating pile.

The relief people feel when that overwhelming bagful is really just a handful of bills repeated each month is remarkable. We can then look at their budgets and come up with a plan for them to pay that small pile.

Debt can grow exponentially

The bigger the debt, the harder it is to deal with. If folks are referred to financial counseling early in their treatment, solutions are easier, which in turn may benefit their mental well-being.

For example, that manic spending spree with the resulting huge credit card debt could be resolved in a few short years with a Debt Management Plan instead of taking 15 or 20 years.

SPREAD THE WORD! Help is available!

  • Do you know someone who is suffering from depression, anxiety, or other mental health conditions? Have they developed debt problems as a result? Tell them about LSS Financial Counseling.
  • Do you yourself suffer from mental health issues that have led to debt? Don’t be afraid to call us at 888.577.2227. We are a kind and non-judgmental bunch. It’s our mission to be helpful.
  • Are you a mental health practitioner, or a physical health professional who suspects your client/patient could have debt problems? Refer them to LSS Financial Counseling. Tell your colleagues about us, too.

(Please note that we do not provide emergency assistance. If your client needs to find work first, your local Health and Human Services Office and/or United Way’s 211 are great resources for local employment and/or emergency services.)

Author Mary Ellen Kaluza is a Certified Financial Counselor with LSS and she specializes in budget, credit, and debt counseling.