Are Hard Up People More Depressed?

The saying goes: “money can’t buy you happiness”, but I’m here to call that out as profoundly untrue. Okay, so having money won’t necessarily bring you ultimate, Dalai Lama style inner happiness, but it can bring you some degree of comfort and pleasure. And of course, with that being said, a lack of money can bring you unhappiness and in some cases, several harmful mental health disorders. The whole ‘money can’t buy you happiness’ saying is actually quite a damaging notion to live by and for those who are living on a low or non existent income it can be an insulting mantra to preach. The majority of us have been in this situation: it’s the week before payday and you’re trying to live on a minuscule budget whilst you await your next paycheck, it’s miserable. Walking past every shop in sight, urging yourself to keep your eyes firmly on the pavement and not on the advertisements for freshly baked bread or the Jaffa Cakes that are on offer because hey, there’s 20p in your bank account and you can't even afford those. On a more serious note, if you have ever missed a bill payment or had your card declined you’ll be able to relate to the feelings of anxiety and sadness it can induce. But what if that next paycheck never came? What if there was no definite source of income on the horizon?

For 14.2 million people in the UK, living in poverty is a daily reality. From April 2018 to March 2019, millions of food bank parcels were issued to people living in the UK. The Trussell Trust food bank network distributed 1.6 million three day emergency packages to people in crisis, that’s a 19 percent increase from the year previous. There are a number of factors when it comes to the reasons of an increase in poverty happening in the UK. From benefit freezes, to welfare cuts and lets not forget the recent report on the Living Standards Outlook for 2019, which found that incomes in the bottom half have fallen due to high inflation. So, with poverty on the rise is there an adjoining link between a lack of money and mental health?

As we all know, mental health has become a growing public health concern in the UK. Workplaces are trying to up their games in becoming ‘mentally well’ environments, schools are holding well being weeks for pupils and social media sites are a breeding ground for promoting better mental health (think candles and yoga flat-lays) but before we try to tackle this ongoing issue, let’s look into why it’s so prevalent in low income areas of the UK.

Social, economic and political factors actually have huge significance in regards to our mental well being. There is a massive amount of social stigmatisation when it comes to not having a lot of money and coming from a low income/ working class background. Preconceived opinions on people from these backgrounds can prove to be harmful to the young people and their idea of self worth and belief.

Em Ledger, 32, works in technology as a product owner for Sky Mobile. She grew up in a working class family in Doncaster and said she felt like she had a limited view of what she could achieve in life. Despite this notion she managed to get into university but says she was in no way equipped with social etiquette. “I had no idea how to interact with academic spaces or people and felt like a huge fish out of water. There was a continuation of the feeling of imposter syndrome that often comes with being working class. You always feel like people judge you and see you as being lesser, be it in intelligence or just somehow less deserving of respect. I guess the long road of constantly feeling like this that eventually led to my bankruptcy.”

After university Em worked as a manager for an independent retail shop, it was here she found the inspiration to set up her own business, aged 24. Unfortunately after three years she had to file for bankruptcy.

“The feeling of standing up in front of a judge and them declare you literally worth nothing - worthless - has such an effect on you. It's not just a feeling of financial failure, it makes you feel actually worthless, as if you let not only yourself down but somehow like you're a stain on society”.

Em’s experiences got me thinking more about social class in the UK and how it interrelates with mental health. Let’s look at British talk show, Jeremy Kyle, which has recently been axed following the suicide of a former guest. The show was known for its explosive arguments between guests, usually surrounding cheating, theft and money disputes. Described as ‘poverty porn’, the show has been widely denounced for exploiting the working class and the poor. I have to admit, as someone who identifies as working class, I have always felt offended by the concept of the show, because, let’s face it, when have the guests ever been anything other than working class? These types of programmes don’t help when it comes to public perceptions of people with low socioeconomic status. The guests are mocked and demonised which can leave people from the same class brackets feeling shame, embarrassment and depression about the class system they were born into.

So here’s what I think: the class system and its link to money go hand in hand with mental ill-health. I'm not saying everyone who has a lack of money has poor mental health, just like I’m not saying people with more money are all happy, but there certainly is a link between the two. Money, or rather a lack of it shouldn’t be a dirty word, being in born into a low income household shouldn’t be something to be ashamed about, after all we don’t choose our beginnings, but we can choose to change the way we are ingrained think, for the greater good.

If you are struggling with financial difficulties or poverty issues, here are some organisations that can help you:

Child Poverty Action Group: 020 7837 7979

TURN 2 US

The Trussell Trust: 01722 580 180

Additionally if you’ve been struggling with your mental health or are having suicidal thoughts, or you know somebody who is, these are the numbers to call to get some help.

Samaritans: 116 123

CALM: 0800 58 58 58

Papyrus (for those under 35): 0800 068 41 41

Childline (for children and young people under 19): 0800 1111

The Silver Line (for the elderly): 0800 4 70 80 90