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

in Debt-Free Wannabe
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  • I feel ashamed for blaming my excesses on my illness, but I also must say that before I was medicated with Paroxetine & lithium I was scared of any type of credit or loans. Head meds, although very necessary, by definition, change the way you think, that is what they are for... Just because you are on medication doesn't necessarily mean you make the right decsions.
  • Debt is often a big problem for people with mental health issues, particularly those with bipolar in my experience. Many people tend to spend a lot on credit cards during "manic" periods and of course the creditors do not care about individual circumstances (unfairly so).

    It is difficult to provide mental health legislation which covers everyone, without limiting them to what they are entitled to borrow.

    If anyone does get into debt I would advise contacting a local mental health charity and finding out about mental health advocacy. This is where someone speaks to the other party on your behalf to try to come to some sort of agreement which ensures all parties are better off.

    Anyone in the Bolton area can contact MhIST (Mental Health Independent Support Team), the charity I work for - (more contact available online)
  • I was 70k in debt when I was diagnosed with bi-polar. At no point have I been offered any support or advice in fact it never even got talked about with any professional (although I was honest & did tell them). I find it disappointing that I was encouraged to take lithium but no practical help/support offered to help me both deal with the debt but also how to prevent it in future. No idea how looking back but have also held down a job. I've now been 'stable' for almost 2 years but live with the fear of the next episode & what may happen. During manic periods I'm king of the world & have no control over my spending & during depressive periods I simply couldn't give two hoots about debt along with everything else in life. Thank goodness for 'stable'ish' periods
  • Always difficult if the person doesn't want to be helped.

    If they've a long history of mental illness with warning signs etc it can be useful for workers/family etc to be involved.
    For example when someone's relatively well they could prepare an action plan that their family etc can be involved in.
    They might say "When I'm getting ill you may notice tell tale signs such as I don't wash my hair, don't sleep (or whatever). If this happens please help me by..."
    This could be anything from alerting professionals to asking for cash cards etc - not binding, but if done soon enough while the person still has a little insight into what's about to happen it may help.

    Could possibly look into enduring power of attorney in advance if they know finances are going to be a problem or if there's a longer problem like the onset of dementia, Huntington's Chorea or other degenerative disorders that may affect judgement and hence spending.

    If the person refuses help, their actual mental capacity to make this decision should be assessed. This is seperate from the Mental Health Act - not all sectioned patients lose their judgement but some do. (I've met people on section - severely ill - psychotic- but able to budget better than most of the forum's readers!!!)
    So may be worth checking out the Mental Capacity Act with someone legally qualified who can advise really acurately.
  • Hi everyone,

    I don't post very much on MSE but I do read it all the time and I'm very glad this issue is being tackled!

    I'm 22 and an IT Support Officer for local government but I'm also Autistic and have debts of over £15,000 (all loans/credit cards) and rising (thanks to missed payments and crazy interest rates). I do think my Autism has been a major factor in this as (trying not to sound stuck-up) I'm intelligent so should "know better" but there's something which has caused me to really mess up.

    I think I reach the stage where I need to feel good and so go on a spending spree then I regret it and feel down - and so the never ending spiral begins :(

    However, I've now destroyed all of my credit cards and switched bank (to one without an over draft) and I've setup a Debt Management Plan with PayPlan - they're excellent BTW! So I now know exactly how much has to go out to them each month and can really start to try and control myself.

    I guess the one thing I wish is that credit companies didn't just perform a credit check but also maybe some kind of limited medical check too - maybe I wouldn't be in this state if they'd just limited my credit and not kept increasing it every time I reached the limit. I think it's very irrisponsible as I missed 3 payments on one credit card and as this caused me to reach my limit they increased it by £500 - does that sound like "responsible lending" to you?!

    Thanks MSE.
  • I've experienced severe depression myself and I now run a website for people who self-harm (Sirius Project).

    I got into a lot of debt when I was depressed, and I'd say the main reasons were:
    • finding it hard to keep track of spending or stay on top of my finances because of low energy/motivation and problems concentrating
    • impulsive spending in a desperate attempt to cheer myself up (it didn't even work!)
    • excessive spending on a medication that turned out to be very bad for me - I felt as though nothing was real, and nothing had any consequences
    • not being able to work because of my illness, and the benefits I got were barely enough to pay my rent, never mind cover my existing debts
    • not having the energy or motivation to contact credit card companies or take other steps to address the problem
    • being hit by bank charges, and my credit card company just kept upping my limit, when I had no hope of being able to pay anything back
    At one point I was withdrawing cash on my credit card, then paying it into my bank account to cover the minimum payment on that same credit card. :sad: When I was able to work, I'd take out a loan to consolidate my credit card debts, but as soon as I got ill again I'd just run them back up, and have the loan payments to contend with as well.

    I only got out of the cycle when I got decent help - meds and therapy - for my depression. On the NHS, this took years. I've paid off over a third of my debt now but I've still got a long way to go!

    A lot of people have mentioned practical financial help for people with mental health problems and debts, and that's obviously very important. But I think there's also a real need for better access to treatment - that would also reduce the amount of people getting into debt through mental health problems. In my experience, and that of others who post on my website, you can get the help you need but you have to be proactive about it - being assertive with health professionals and looking into different sources of help. Of course, the very symptoms you're seeking help for can make it near-impossible to do that!

    On my website I provide a lot of info on how to improve mental health and how to access treatment, if that's of interest.
  • I was really interested to read this thread. I have very suddenly been thrown into the world of mental health issue following my husbands breakdown and when he was finally allowed out of hospital for supervised leave we ended up spending money on new furniture, clothes etc, to keep him happy. I initially thought that this was just a way to help him feel happy at home but he became slightly obsessive about clothes, the majority of which he has not worn!! It would be useful to have some sort of guide to offer the carers help and advice on how to deal with this type of spending without causing further issues with their recovery. It is about time people started to realise the affect that mental health issues have on the people themselves, their carers and families. My husband's breakdown wasn't helped by his obsessiveness about our finances and trying to save as much as possible and working all hours god sends, so please anything that can help other people get through such dark and desparate times would be a blessing.
    2010 - 4 books £28

  • Hi there - im a specialist coach for people with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) - these people have impulsivity and poor organisational skills as daily challenges, you can imagine how this is played out with regard to money management and debt, they regularly spend what they dont have, forget to pay the credit card bills when they arrive and so the viscious circle ensues - throwing depression and anxiety states into the situation as their debts spiral out of control. I have clients who have been given credit cards at the age of 18 years (this is like letting a small child loose in a sweet shop) - my clients dont know when to stop and the consequences can be dire and long lasting. Bad credit rating, spiralling debt, unbelievable mobile phone bills, continued spending, missed deadlines for payments and lost cards are just some of the challenges faced by people with ADHD. I act as the 'missing link' in conjunction with their consultant and medication (if they choose) - regularly reminding them about what needs to be paid and when, advocating for them when things get out of control and teaching them how to better manage their lives, often putting practical measures into place such as a restricted daily spending limit, cutting up credit cards, only using phone providers who will impose a limit and encouraging them to use cash-only with a daily record of their spending. This condtion was previously thought to disappear with adult-hoood, we now know that up to 80% of people diagnosed in childhood with adhd will continue to have symptoms into adulthood. With between 1-9% of children in the Uk currently diagnosed with ADHD were looking at a financial time bomb!
  • Thanks for this thread. It helps a lot to know I'm not alone in these problems. When I try to explain how much irrational overspending and debt affects me to my psychiatrist, she just shrugs it off. Both are listed on my care plan as risk factors, yet there is no practical help with it. As I mentioned earlier in the thread, my dad is helping me out with a loan to pay off some bills. So the money is there in my bank account. It has been for three weeks. Yet I can't deal with picking up a phone and speaking to the creditors. But I could quite easily go shopping and blow the whole amount in one afternoon. Fortunately i'm on meds which prevent that right now.

    Can I just say too that there is a difference between debt causing mental illness and mental illness causing debt. Many people have single episodes of depression following a crisis in their life. I'm not knocking the seriousness of that. But it's very different to living 24/7 with a serious mental illness .
  • I work in a care home for the elderly and mentally infirm (dont know if anyones touched on this as havent had time to read all posts)
    we get alot of people coming in with debts and obviously alot of people with mental health issues, whether its dementia or depression or a combination of things.
    in their cases, the power of attorney is sought by a family member so that they then control the elderly persons finances overseeing any spending and generally any major decisions. If there isn't a family member around (or sometimes sadly they just dont care) the team leader that oversees that particular persons wing of the building will take over finances.
    I think the elderly often get overlooked in terms of mental health/debt, especially as they often never want to admit theres a problem due to fear of "making a fuss"

    some councils have community officers etc who's roles vary greatly but my OH who works in such a position, visits elderly people in the community and will help them obtain any help they need with getting their homes heated or seeing if they qualify for any benefits...... many times its a case of one service passing you on to another, to another, to another before you get anywhere with any help........ hard enough for someone without mental health issues let alone someone who's struggling day to day.
    CAB is always a good bet.

    hope any of that helped.
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