Thursday, 4 July 2019

Financial Stress and Mental Health

Please note there is a trigger warning for suicide and depression.

A few weeks ago I went to a talk on financial stress and mental health put on at UTS with the Banksia  Project, and as this government seems determined to put a good 60% of Australians under severe financial stress over the next decade, I thought I'd share a few tips. The main speakers were Brad Kane and Jamie Pride who told their personal experiences and the wisdom they'd gained from it. They both had been hugely fiscally successful, but it had come at a cost, crashing down with both their health and bank balance depleting to zero. In generously sharing their stories, it was easy to see how quickly this can happen to all of us.

In recent studies in Australia, 22% of employees are financially stressed. This will rise considerably over the next few years.

One of the key lessons was to look after yourself. Look at how much sleep you are getting. Consider how long you can sustain your current pace? Look at what you are doing to cope. Sometimes you have to do the opposite of what you want to do (not drink, don’t eat the junk, don’t go out and stay out late) - What you want to do when you are stressed is often counter intuitive to what is good for you. If you are doing unhealthy things to cope - drinking too much to be able to sleep or to relieve the stress, perhaps you need to reassess what you are doing in the first place.

Get help when you need it - don't wait to hit rock bottom. MoneySmart on the Asic site has a free counselling service as well as a section on managing your debt (Note their second tip is get help if you need it).

 If your work place has EAP, EAP has a financial support branch too. It's not admitting failure, it's a positive proactive step. Consider it the same as seeing a doctor for a minor injury. 

The Growth Rooms of theThe Banksia Project helps get the skills in order before disaster hits, so you're better able to cope if it does. One of the speakers likened running a business the same as playing sport. Ask yourself 'How ‘match fit’ are you?' 

What was clear form the two stories, was that nothing was insurmountable., even being declared bankrupt or losing everything.  It was also clear that early intervention would have avoided a lot of health issues.  The rock bottom creeps up on you if you don't value capacity over capability. You might be able to keep the balls in the air for awhile, but if what you are doing is unsustainable, eventually you will physically or mentally collapse and it will all come crashing down.  Realising things are getting out of control can save a lot of stress later on.

It is worth noting, 8 Australians take their life a day, and 6 of those are men. Another 240 will make an attempt. We are not okay as a nation. We have a responsibility to be vigilant of those around us. One of the speakers said he hadn't really thought about suicide but decided one day to leave the house and not return. That's how easily it can sneak up on you.

One of the tips that applies to everyone was to think now of your three people that you would call in a disaster. Have that already in your mind so you don't need to think about who to talk to when you aren't thinking straight. Put Lifeline in your phone (13 11 14) so it's there as a contact and you know you ALWAYS have someone to call. Note Lifeline also has a 'chat' option and a text option if you can't quite voice the words out loud.

One of the speakers made everyone put Lifeline in their phone. Because statistically, there were many of us in the audience that will one day need it.

There is no shame in seeking help. When Brad Kane made the phone call to declare bankruptcy, he said it actually felt good, surprisingly. A weight lifted off him as someone else took control of the debt management.

“Never let your ego get in the way of asking for help when in desperate need. We have all been helped at a point in our lives.” 
― Edmond Mbiaka

To finish, I want to thank the speakers for sharing some pretty tough and painful experiences for them, but to know that it will have been a survival guide to others. Seeking help and helping others are the two sides of the coin. As a nation let's keep sharing our experiences and reaching out when we need to, or we will all pay the price one way or other.

Linking with #OpenSlather


  1. I love that mental health is being talked about more. Important to share stories and help strategies for better outcomes and understanding.

  2. I can completely relate to this. I find it hard to claim I'm struggling. Also I have a nice house and car but I've not worked since October last year and have delayed applying for Centrelink benefits, so my savings have dwindled as I've had to pay my mortgage and bills and eat while earning no income during that time. I really didn't want to have to go on the dole and wanted to figure out a way to sustain myself but am yet to do so. And of course my desperation level re jobs increases.

    I really should have put my mortgage on hold months ago. I don't pay much and don't have much of a mortgage but it's my major expense so probably would have meant I could have waited several more months before contacting Centrelink.

    1. We have been done a number to think that Centrelink is not there for all, if we were Swedish or Danish or one of those happy countries, you wouldn't think twice about it when in between work because, of course, that is exactly what it's there for. I pay tax, and that is what my tax is for. And when my turn comes, that is what someone else's tax is for (as your tax paid to get other people by up until October last year). Ditto when my children finish school, my tax will pay for my future doctors, food providors and hopefully scientists that will make our lives easier. So don't delay, the process is long. Get down there ASAP!!

    2. I agree with Lydia Deb. There's sometimes a lot of paperwork and red tape with centrelink, quite frankly it would depress anyone. My mum had a terrible time getting Dad and herself a pension, so much rigmarole, it did her head in. A positive is they got back paid to the day they made the initial claim. Get onto it!