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How Financial Stability Affects Mental Health

Achieving financial stability impacts more than just someone’s ability to pay their bills every month.

For many Americans, the COVID-19 pandemic kickstarted a financial downturn that has been difficult to recover from—and that only seems to be getting worse in the face of rising prices on consumer goods, housing, and other necessities. And while much of the discussion around this economic crisis has focused on decreased spending power, there’s another major effect that isn’t getting as much attention: the stress that these financial struggles put on mental health.

Here’s what to know about the important—and often overlooked—connection between financial health and emotional health, plus helpful resources for those in need of support.

The Relationship Between Financial Stress and Mental Health

According to research from the Money and Mental Health Policy Institute, nearly half of people in debt experience mental health problems, and about 40% of people with a mental health disorder say debt has worsened their condition.

Often, there’s a connection (and battle) between depression and money worries, one that operates as a cycle. For example, financial stress and instability leads to stress, anxiety, and other issues with mental health, and these make it difficult to manage money and spending. Those who struggle with their mental health may also find it difficult to find and maintain employment. And the worse the money issues get, the bigger the toll on mental and emotional wellness.

This cycle can be hard to break even in the best of economies. But add in the current public health crisis, inflation, and a potential recession, and that battle for financial and mental stability has become even more difficult to win. 

Access to Care When Money is Tight

Another unfortunate by-product of financial instability is that it complicates an individual’s ability to access professional mental health or substance use care. This is especially true in the U.S., where health insurance is largely tied to employment.

There is a significant economic cost to mental health and substance use disorders in the United States. This includes direct costs like treatment and other healthcare expenditures, as well as intangible costs like lost productivity and lost employment opportunities. 

Many mental health treatment centers make an effort to increase access to care however possible, including for those patients who might not have the financial means to pursue it. However, barriers still remain, and financial instability continues to be a primary reason that people are unable to get the care they need.  

Resources and Resolutions

Breaking the cycle of financial and mental stress is hard, but it is not impossible.

If you are someone who is struggling with their finances and a mental health disorder such as depression or substance use, please know that you are not alone—and that help is available. 

Financial assistance for mental health care can be found through state-funded programs and grants from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). You may also be able to get coverage for care through Medicaid. Look into free or low-cost clinics and treatment centers in your area too, including Federally Qualified Health Centers (FQHC), which offer treatment on a sliding scale based on your ability to pay.

Not sure where to even start? Call 211 to access free financial assistance programs in your community. This resource is available in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico, and can offer assistance with everything from making rent or mortgage payments to finding reliable housing. It can also connect you with a non-profit debt counselor.

For those in Palm Beach County, we encourage you to contact the Palm Beach County Homeless Coalition, which funds programs for affordable housing and meal provisions. 

For those interested in mental and behavioral health care in Palm Beach County, Orange County (Orlando area), and Miami-Dade County, Retreat Behavioral Health service centers are now accepting enrollees through Aetna Better Health, a managed care provider of Medicaid services in several counties in South Florida. 

You can also contact our team at Retreat 24/7 to learn more about your care options and how we might be able to help.