Mental Health and Debt: Mental Health Workers & Others Feedback Needed

in Debt-Free Wannabe
101 replies 17.1K views


  • AmesAmes Forumite
    18.5K Posts
    Coolcait, I was the same, I'd just forget when payments were due and ended up in a mess because of that with Barclaycard (the others were all on dd).
    Unless I say otherwise 'you' means the general you not you specifically.
  • I have suffered from depression for many years and this has been my second time into debt only on a much grander scale. around 4 years ago my depression became so bad that I was no longer able to venture out on my own without panic attacks. and that's actually around the time when I started to spend an awful lot of money. despite the fact that we COULD afford it at the time, we no longer can sustain the repayments so have had to negitiate with creditors. I have racked up credit card debts (a lot of it spent on the internet), store card debts (again purchases made on the internet) and catalogue debts. I took out bank loans to repay these and ran them up again to their limits. I have been aware for a little while now that my spending has been linked to my moods. That 'lift' you get when you spend. For me spending was a way of showing everyone else that I was as good as them. After seeing a counsellor for quite some time it enabled me to do something about it. (the creditors situation that is). I hope I am 'cured' so to speak as the situation I am in at the moment has frightened me half to death. I'm a wreck eveytime the phone rings or the postman drops something through the letterbox. so obviously this hasn't helped. I'm still unable to venture out on my own. I can't cope. I can do things only from my own home. My credit rating is shot to pieces which for me is FABULOUS. Because of my mental state it's better that i don't have any at all.
  • i totally agree i suffer from depression last nite i was suppose to go work, i couldnt as i feel so tired and have the shakes, last week i feel like i was hallucinating, i have so many bills to pay,.. last year i was in work full time for 6 months i managed to pay off a lot of debt i had built up on credit cards from when i was really bad with my depression..i just need to go back to the docters, get some stronger anti depressants, get back on track. when i was working full time, i felt on top of the world, when it stopped the work, i went back down again, big time,...i think sometiems i used to feel debt was like depression as you see no way out, if you keep goin you finally get there.
    i will be debt free, i will
  • when I say 'cured' by the way, I don't mean my depression as this is something that has plagued me most of my life. I was referring to the DEBT factor.
  • Hi, I'm a clinical psychologist working in the NHS. I haven't worked with anyone specifically on their debt, but if it helps I can write about how I would approach this issue with a new client. This may be different from how another psychologist or mental health professional would work with this problem so it shouldn’t be taken as the ‘correct’ way to do it.

    To keep this post a reasonable length, I’m going to narrow the problem down to one of excessive spending. However, it’s important to bear in mind that people who have experienced mental health problems are in debt for many reasons (e.g. unable to sustain employment, unable to understand or organise finances, student loans, borrowing money to help out family members etc..).

    So, at the initial meeting with the client, one of the first things I would do would be to ask the person to tell me in detail about the last few times they engaged in excessive spending.

    I would be looking for a common thread to link each of the episodes. It may feel to the client like the spending happens ‘out of the blue’, but often a similar pattern emerges. For example, perhaps it's connected with the onset of feelings of grandiosity (an intense and uncontrollable feeling of extreme self-importance). This is commonly associated with bi-polar disorder and psychosis. Alternatively, the spending may be used as an attempt to improve a person's mood, or increase self-esteem.

    I’m going to use only the person who uses spending to improve their mood as an example of what I would do next (as this post is getting quite long).

    At this stage, the client and I have a rough idea of what we think is triggering the spending (low mood). Becoming more aware of these triggers can help to make the person feel more in control of their situation as it highlights areas for potential change. The client can make a plan of action for when she notices her mood becoming low (e.g. avoiding shops or giving her credit card to her partner temporarily). For some people, knowing the triggers is enough to help them.

    However, other clients may already be fully aware that they spend when they feel sad or insecure, but feel unable to change this. At this point, it’s very important to be aware that people do things for good reasons. So if a client of mine was in this situation, I would work with them to find out what their good reasons for spending were. It may be the case that the person is aware that their debt is contributing to their low mood in the long-term, but they may also believe that if they didn’t give in to their spending urges, they wouldn’t be able to cope with how bad they feel in the short-term.

    My work with the client might then focus on testing out the belief that they would feel worse if they didn’t spend, and also thinking of other ways to cope with their low mood.

    Sorry for the really long post – here’s a summary:
    • Look for similar triggers to spending (e.g. situations, feelings, thoughts. Keeping a diary might help).
    • Identifying these triggers can highlight ways to change
    • What are your good reasons for spending?
    • Can you test these out? Find alternative strategies?
    • If low mood is triggering the spending, maybe it would be useful to get help from your GP or a mental health professional?
  • I had a friend who was in terrible debt also. she suffered with chronic depression also. It's that need for a lift and that need to feel as good as everyone else. she had piles and piles of clothes still in the bags from where she bought them and hadn't done anything with them. she said it made her feel better spending and walking through the door with loads of bags. but she rarely used any of her purchases. she almost lost her home.
  • dancingfairydancingfairy Forumite
    9.1K Posts
    o.k a few thoughts from me. I have had severe depression and some books I found useful are the Mind Mental Health Guide and Managing Depression by Phillip Barker.
    I think it would be good to use some of the techniques and adapt them to debt issues. Ie putting things in perspective and dealing with things starting with the easiest first etc.
    My friend found that she got into debt by using her cards to live off as her benefits were messed up - they can be difficult to sort out, plus it's difficult to live off them especially if you have not been taught any of the basics like budgetting,shopping around etc. Also doctors don't always help - it seems to be the case that in order to prove you can't cope at work they assume you can and you are made to put yourself in positions that you can't cope in (like you are either well enough to work full time or you are not well - which means people have no incentive to go back to work even for a few hours a week as it can stop your benefits and people should be better supported to work part time until they well enough to take on a few more hours) until you get a lot worse and get signed off again.
    I think mental health workers need to be aware of the close links with money issues and should refer people where necessary to other organisations or have money advisers themselves and the benefits system needs to be overhauled as it does not always help people with mental illness. Not that I don't think a book wouldn't be useful but I feel that there are other issues which need to be addressed to really make an impact on the problems.
    Making my money go further with MSE :j
    How much can I save in 2012 challenge
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  • jetcatjetcat Forumite
    746 Posts
    my own experience of how a support worker can help in money situations - when i had made a list of creditors etc. and payments due (amount and date) my support worker kept a copy. She would then ring me a day before, just for a chat to see how i was doing. If i was struggling, then she would come round and we would arrange to meet the next day to go to post office etc. to pay debt. If, on the other hand, i was doing ok, she would simply ask me what i had on the next day - she would never simply 'tell me' to pay the debt, as that would have been confrontational (in my mind anyway!) It allowed me to feel a little in control, and not so overwhelmed.

    I also totally agree with the previous poster who said about being financially able to pay the monies due, but not actually managing it, and worrying that the creditors will think it is a case of deliberate non-payment. Maybe that is something that a support worker needs to keep a check on?

    I think in the first instance, people with mental health problems may need a lot of help to set up repayments, deal with creditors etc. but over time, we can be encouraged to do more for ourselves (apologies if generalising there!) but obviously there are limits on what each individual can do.

    I look forward to reading the email Martin!
  • savingholmessavingholmes Forumite
    16.5K Posts
    Part of the Furniture 10,000 Posts Name Dropper Photogenic
    Hi Martin. We have been in debt about 3 times over to the tune of about £30K each time! We've managed to clear it each time without getting into trouble with creditors through selling our home, taking redundancy, gifts or inheritance, bonus but each time we ended up back where we started.

    About 18 months-2 years ago I came across your book the money diet and it genuinely helped me tremendously - we saved £000s over night by applying for and being accepted for 0% credit cards, we then switched our utilities, insurance etc. I liked the fact that you could tackle an area at a time. It was only when I joined the forum tho that I made real progess in addressing our poor spending habits... I have paid off £000s just since July where as previously we were overspending by £1k a month - so really made a £2k a month shift.

    A lot of our debt was due to spending while depressed - both post natally and following a number of sudden bereavements. OH also became depressed... Our thinking when at our worst was "might not be alive tomorrow - so does it matter" or "I don't want my kids to know I'm depressed so I will take them to a paid for play area so they are happy and occupied and it is not too much pressure on me". My DS during that time described me as "the happiest person" he knew and had no idea how crap I felt.

    Due to depression I also put on weight, spent more on take-aways and eating out. Unfortunately that meant that cheap shop clothes didn't fit well and that my clothes got more expensive to "hide" how much weight I had put on... I used to get a buzz/lift just from going shopping which also didn't help the situation. It also gave me easy social contact when I didn't feel up to burdening others with how I really felt...

    Luckily my OH and I both earn above the national average so I am hopeful that if we keep our jobs / get similar paying jobs locally that we should be CC debt free by April 2010. This is thro using the budget planner, demotivator, the soa, the snowball calculator and challenges like the paperhat challenge and make £10 a day challenge and the finished baskets thread.

    I'm doing well currently and use the "accountability" of being a regular poster on certain threads to keep me on track financially. Also I use the special occasions board to lighten my day and I have started doing more craft based projects... I think on the boards there is a real sense of community on some of the threads... sometimes resulting in visits or packages thro the post ;) so I feel I have expanded my friendship base to - it would have been nice to have had that sooner...(ie if I'd joined sooner).

    I think sometimes when you're depressed - you need someone to do things for you - basic things... like help pay your bills. Luckily I had my OH and tho he did annoyingly miss the odd payment or pay late, generally he kept things ticking over but isn't as good at getting the canny bargain as me:rotfl: .

    During 2021: Target 1) Clear CC debt - £1788 to go (but debt neutral) @ 0% Target 2) Lose weight 3) Write regularly 38113/70000 words Book 2 4) Promote book(s) 5) Develop passive income streams 6) Build 3-6 mths EF 7) Declutter
  • Red1708Red1708 Forumite
    843 Posts

    I don't want to go into too much detail on an open forum however I was diagnosed with Borderline Personality disorder back in 2001. I received little treatment (simple anti-depressants) and muddled on for the next 6-7 years. As a direct result of my illness I went on impulsive, 'out of the blue' spending spree's without any regard of how to pay for these things. My debts got larger and larger, I 'hid' from them and ended up declaring myself bankrupt.

    I was hospitalised in April of this year due to my mental health and all the doctors asked about my spending habit but nobody physically told me it was linked (I found that out by my own research) nor did they investigate sufficiently to identify the clear link.

    IMHO the Mental Health workers within the NHS is too stretched to even contemplate looking at this issue 'deep enough' and certainly won't be able to help through therapy. There are far too many seriously ill people suffering from all kinds of mental health illnesses that can't even get to see a psychologist or community mental health nurse never mind build up a sufficiently lengthy relationship to tackle these issues.

    Probably not what people want to hear but the scenario is unfortunately all too frequent.
    BSC Member 59 - AD 29th March 2008

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