Bell Let’s Talk – About Why Mental Health Sets the Bar for Financial Health

2024-01-17  3 minute read

Nicole Polak

Lifestyle Debt

According to Ontario’s Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH), in any given year one in five Canadians will experience a mental illness. By the time a person reaches the age of 40, 50 percent of the population will have – or have had – a mental illness. Even if you are fortunate enough to not suffer from mental illness yourself, these statistics illustrate how likely it is that someone in your life would benefit from your support and understanding.

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The effects of mental illness can be far reaching for both the person suffering as well as their family, friends, and colleagues. People with a mental illness are more likely to have substance abuse disorders, long-term physical medial conditions, and they often struggle to find and maintain employment. Given these consequences, it is easy to see how one’s mental health and financial well-being are intimately connected.

A report by the Canadian Centre on Substance Use and Addiction (CCSA) found that substance use cost the Canadian economy $49.1 billion in 2020 with $22.4 billion of that resulting from lost productivity. Compared to these astronomical numbers, the cost to a single person with a substance abuse disorder may seem trivial, but as a percentage of their income, it can be staggering.

Every dollar spent feeding or treating addiction is a dollar that is not available to provide food, clothing, and shelter for yourself and your family. Over time, the addiction requires that you increase your usage and as funds run out, many addicts turn to the use of credit; often in the form of high interest debt, which further compounds their financial difficulties. In some cases, addicts gain access to a loved one’s credit and will use that to feed their addiction as well.

Due to increasing demand for mental health resources, access to publicly funded resources is often limited to the most severe of cases and wait times can be long. For persons with sufficient financial resources or benefits, faster access to mental health resources can be done privately; however, the cost for many is prohibitive and benefits often run out long before mental health has improved. Lengthy delays in accessing treatment, a lack of available treatment, and premature ending of treatment can result in mental health disorders becoming more entrenched, which in turn can lead to chronic physical conditions.

A 2019 survey of working Canadians found that 75 percent of respondents said they would be reluctant – or would refuse – to disclose a mental illness to their employer or co-worker. And yet, the impact on their productivity and attendance could jeopardize their employment and relationships with colleagues. It has been estimated that as much as 70 to 90 percent of people with the most severe mental illnesses are unemployed. This makes a person dependent on the financial support of family or friends, or the government, which for many is as little as about $1,700 per month in Alberta.

Unfortunately, there can be a vicious downward spiral between a person’s mental health and finances. Poor mental health leads to a reduced capacity to earn income and a lack of income prevents a person from gaining prompt access to mental health resources, as well as access to the necessities of life. In these circumstances, it is not surprising that a person might turn to credit to fill the gap and to access necessary resources. At some point however, a person’s access to new credit will run out. If you are unable to pay this debt, it can further compound your mental and financial health when the collection agents start calling or creditors take legal action.

Should you or a loved one find yourselves in this position, it can be helpful to know there are solutions. Reach out today to MNP Ltd. for a free initial consultation to discuss your options.

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