FACING UP TO DEBT & MENTAL HEALTH

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There are many legacies from the global economic meltdown of 2008. Hatred of bankers for crystallising it is one. Also a lack of faith in politicians. Stagnation of real wages. Insecure employment. The list goes on, and almost every family will have their own reasons to look back on that difficult period with some degree of dismay or disdain.

Yet one consequence of the recession – and more specifically the easy-lending years which led up to it – is that of mental health problems. The relationship between debt and mental health, self confidence, relationship breakdowns and (unfortunately) suicide is a widely-accepted one, but the years in which mortgages and loans were given out with dangerous ease have left many people mired in debt and financial trouble since.

SYMPTOMS

No one loves being in debt, but some cope with it better than others. The severity of the debt is also a factor too. A guide from Moneysavingexpert does a good job of outlining the different stages of debt-induced stress. The first is when the warning signs creep in. This could be things like headaches, muscle tension or increasing irritability. If not dealt with, this can quickly progress to burnout, which is identified as stage two. This can leave you feeling fatigued, and largely inefficient in terms of how you think about and do things. Finally, burnout can lead to depression, which can manifest in any number of ways such as weight loss, an inability to concentrate or simply feeling low for extended periods of time.

GETTING HELP

If you or someone you’re close with identifies strongly with any of the above three stages, you really should seek help if you can. The good news is that you can do this for free by way of one-on-one consultations with non-profit organisations such as Step Change, Citizens Advice or Christians Against Poverty (note: this is not exclusive to Christians; their faith is merely why they choose to help!). It may feel intimidating to speak with such specialists, but they are not there to provide judgment – only help.

DEALING WITH YOUR DEBTS

While treating the symptoms is a good idea, dealing with the root of the problem is very advisable too. Getting yourself out of debt may be easier than you think too, given that there are a few tools at your disposal. There are three simple steps which can set you on your way though…

Live within your means: It may seem like a given, but if you are in over your head with debt, you should look to do a firm budget of all your income and outgoings to ensure you can put a few quid away each month to chip away.
Trim the cost of debts: Assess your various obligations, and determine which are the most expensive to service (ie: which have the highest interest rates). You can then undercut these by consolidating with a cheaper personal loan, or alternatively through a 0 per cent transfer credit card.

Pay off the highest rate debts first: Don’t simply split your money across all debts. Pay off the ones with the highest rates of interest first. Simply make minimum repayments on the others if need be. The most important thing is to get these expensive ones out the way first.

FINAL THOUGHTS

The above is not to tarnish all debt as bad. It is only bad debt that is bad! In reality, affordable credit or various types of loans can be a wonderful enabler, especially when you think of things like student loans, mortgages and others. But of course it is the job of ourselves as individuals to be responsible with our borrowing. Much as lenders are now a lot stricter when it comes to flogging debt, there is only so much that regulation can do. It is thus incumbent upon ourselves to be vigilant in this respect, and also be on the lookout for any signs that debt may be affecting mental health – be that within yourself or someone you love.

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