If you’ve ever laid awake at night thinking about your finances you’ll know: financial stress can be debilitating. What you may not be aware of is the strong link between financial stress and mental health.
According to the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, 4.2 million Australians received mental health related prescriptions from their doctors over the 2017-2018 period.
Though governments annually spend over $9 billion on mental health, there’s a continuous need for more resources, funding, and understanding around mental health issues.

What is mental health?
The term, mental health, refers to a wide range of health and behavioural issues that vary in severity and duration. Among the most common mental health issues in Australia are depression and anxiety.
While the causes of depression and anxiety are varied, financial stress is a common theme.

What is financial stress?
Financial stress is the all-consuming worry about money. Mortgage stress, in particular, is defined as needing to use more than 30% of the household income to cover mortgage payments.
A report by ratings agency Moody’s, stated that the number of Australian mortgages more than 30 days overdue was at its highest level for five years, (1.58%).
According to Relationships Australia, financial pressures are the number one contributor to relationship breakdown.

Recognising financial stress before it gets out of hand is a step towards taking back control of your life. Some signs are:
• arguing with loved ones about money,
• difficulty sleeping,
• feelings of anger, withdrawal or fear,
• mood swings,
• loss of /increased appetite,
• increased use of alcohol or other substances,
• thoughts of self-harm.

Reducing financial stress
Financial problems can happen to anyone. A sudden illness, retrenchment, or an unexpected expense may throw your budget out of kilter. However, there are steps you can take to get your finances back under control.
• Seek independent financial counselling. Check out MoneySmart’s website, www.moneysmart.gov.au for help locating a counsellor near you.
• Speak to your lender about restructuring your mortgage or consolidating credit cards, etc.
• Speak to your creditors about setting up a payment plan.
• Work with your financial adviser to develop a realistic budget.
• Contact the National Debt Helpline on 1800 007 007.

How can you manage stress?
Emotional stress can find you obsessing over ways to solve problems, ultimately affecting your behaviour and interaction with others.
Take care of your health by:
• talking with a trusted friend or professional counsellor.
• keeping a journal.
• distracting yourself by going for a walk, seeing a movie or playing sport.
• practicing meditation to take your mind to a ‘quiet place’.
• taking back control, as discussed above.

Where to find help for mental health issues
If mental health issues affect you, or someone you know, consider:
• speaking to your doctor,
• calling Beyond Blue on 1300 224 636 or chat online,
• calling Lifeline on 13 11 14 or chat online,
• visiting Black Dog Institute at www.blackdoginstitute.org.au.

Thursday October 10 is World Mental Health Day, which aims to remove the stigma attached to mental health through awareness and information.
By removing some of the misconceptions around mental illness, we build a caring community in which those that are affected are more likely to seek the help they need.