Mental Health Awareness week: Dads most affected by Covid-19 impact
Mental Health Awareness week: Dads most affected by Covid-19 impact
This is Mental Health Awareness week. And it couldn’t have come at a more appropriate time.
As the initial physical health shock of the pandemic starts to shift from the spotlight towards the acceptance of a new socially distanced normal, the intertwined emotional and financial hits are becoming clearer.
Even by the first week of the lockdown, there was a spike in the number of Britons reporting a high level of anxiety to the equivalent of more than 25 million people, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) revealed earlier this month.
People who had already been impacted financially were also reporting lower wellbeing. Those who had experienced a reduction in household finances because of the coronavirus reported, somewhat unsurprisingly, a 16 per cent higher anxiety on average.
Within days the chancellor, Rishi Sunak, had begun the rollout of an unprecedented personal financial survival package, starting with the furlough deal, followed by similar packages for the self-employed and other earners as the high risk of mass redundancies became evident.
Policies of payment holidays and leniencies on personal debt and other measures have offered reprieve for millions and last week Sunak confirmed the furlough payment scheme – covering 80 per cent of the salary of those who have been stood down by their employers or customers – will continue well into the autumn.
It will need to if the first economic indicators of the pandemic on our shores – or, more specifically, our national response to it – are anything to go by.
Financial stress = mental stress
We know that money worries have a huge role to play in our mental health anyway, and vice versa. New data seen exclusively by The Independent suggests money worries are now negatively impacting the mental health of a quarter of the population.
The fallout from Covid-19 in particular is affecting such a wide range of the population – those with underlying financial circumstances as well as mental health histories, that debt, mental health and financial advice charities and organisations are supporting those managing long-term conditions as well as people who are experiencing mental ill-health for the first time in their lives.
Rachel Edwards, 43 is from Bridgend in Wales. She has suffered from depression since childhood and has faced and is working to overcome problems with debt and gambling. She has looked carefully at the emergency financial measures that apply to her but decided not to apply for payment holidays on her debts because she is concerned that the interest will continue to be charged.
“The stop on overdraft interest has helped me a lot because I’m in my overdraft more than out of it. I’m in a hole there that I can’t get out of,” she explains.
“But I’ve been making the payments on my other debts every month for ages now with a debt repayment plan that means my payments have come down. I had been paying £450 off on credit cards and loans every month in the past and it was only covering the interest. I don’t want to be in that position again.”
Rachel has made use of several apps to help her manage her financial affairs, including one that prevents her accessing UK gambling sites and Toucan, which helps people with pre-existing impairments including mental illness and dementia. It alerts a trusted friend or family member to the person’s financial management by prompting them to call the person if, for example, they exceed their spending budget.
This has helped a lot recently, says Rachel, because it means she’s talking about money more with her designated contact – her mum.
“Right now, my advice to people with mental health and financial problems is to look at all the sources of help. There are loads.
“I usually put things off,” Rachel admits. “I’ve got some paperwork that I need to send off at the moment and I haven’t managed it yet. I keep telling myself I’ll sort it out soon. But I know that when I do, I’ll have to speak to someone on the phone about my finances so I’ve put it off.”
“Don’t leave it,” she warns. “Get help. It will get worse if you don’t, but better if you do.”
Help for fathers
So who is most likely to need that help, especially at the moment?
Though the economic situation we find ourselves in is more likely to financially affect women, new research seen exclusively by The Independent suggests men are more likely to be emotionally struggling.
A third of us are more stressed about money than we were before Covid-19 hit, according to research from social innovation foundation Nesta and the Competition and Markets Authority – but fathers of young children are particularly affected.
Just under a fifth of us say financial worries have become such a problem that they are negatively affecting relationships with friends and family.
But this figure almost doubles among 35-44 year olds and men in this age range with dependent children are some of the most likely to be struggling with their mental health because of financial concerns.
They are twice as likely to be more stressed about money than usual and almost half say that money is having a bigger impact than physical health on their wellbeing compared with a quarter of the wider population.
More than 40 per cent of dads with dependent children have lost sleep over money since the crisis began.
Anyone struggling with their mental wellbeing, in whatever form that takes, should seek help as soon as they can. Many people facing mental or financial health problems only get help after battling to resolve the problem by themselves for far too long.
Support is designed for anyone who needs it, regardless of circumstance or level of problem, including from leading mental health charity Mind, the impartial, government-backed Money Advice Service and the debt charity StepChange.
These organisations will also be able to provide details of further sources of help for your needs.
Meanwhile, any steps towards organising your financial affairs will help.
“Though the scale and impact of the current situation is daunting, there are some positives in respect of your finances,” suggests Jeanette Makings, head of financial education at Close Brothers.
“Remember that this is a moment in time and though significant, it is short term. Some of that extra time at home can be put to good use for all of us to do a bit of financial housekeeping. Just simple things like going through your budget and analysing household spending can reap huge rewards.
“Cancel any unnecessary subscriptions and memberships, do some research into alternative suppliers for your regular bills, including your mortgage, review your workplace benefits and ensure you are making the most of them.
“Finally review your savings and investments. Make sure they are in line with your financial plans and are on track to help you meet your short, medium, and long term financial goals.
“Financial wellbeing and mental wellbeing go hand in hand. Taking steps to boost financial wellbeing will not just help those longer term goals remain within reach, but also provide much needed peace of mind at this difficult and stressful time.”