In recent years, we have witnessed the dawning of a new era of openness when it comes to discussing issues of stigma. From confronting the culture of sexual misconduct and misogyny to openly discussing mental health concerns, there has been a tidal wave of momentum for those wanting to bring terrible, unmentionable things that in the past have lurked in the shadows, into the light.
In Canada, mental health awareness has been a particular area of focus and bringing attention to these issues has been fully embraced by the mainstream. One example of this is Let’s Talk Day.
In the last 7 years, Bell Canada has sponsored Let’s Talk Day. On this day, Bell donates money from each text message, call, or social media engagement with the #letstalk hashtag attached, towards improving mental health.
While no one would doubt that Bell has multiple reasons for sponsoring such an event, it’s impact has been undeniable. Not only has over 93 million dollars been raised, but so has the bar for having open conversations about the pervasive mental health issues facing us today.
The list of journalists and celebrities who have disclosed their own personal struggles with mental health issues has been steadily growing in the last 10 years. The stigma is starting to fade as we become more comfortable talking about our own mental health struggles. It’s something that I have dealt with and know many people also face each day. And even though it’s still not something we are totally secure revealing, we’ve come a long way from where we were in the past.
An Unexpected Stronghold
Although we’ve made gigantic strides in reducing the stigma around mental health concerns, there is one bastion of mental health struggles that remains; that stronghold of money.
Now you may be saying, “Money? Money isn’t a mental health issue.”
Yes, the levels of consumer debt have skyrocketed to stratospheric levels. Sure, some people are dumb when it comes to money, but that isn’t a mental health issue.
And you’d be right.
But anxiety is.
In Canada, 10% of people will suffer from an anxiety disorder (in the U.S. the number is 18%). Obviously, not all of those are due to money issues.
But some are.
Losing Sleep Because of Money
A recent survey found that a whopping 47% of people reported that money worries cause them extreme emotional stress, and 40% said money worries cause them to lose sleep.
So while not all anxiety is a result of money concerns, money concerns are definitely causing people to feel dire levels of anxiety. And levels to the point where 40% of people are feeling so overwhelmed, they can’t sleep.
This is an insane number.
Let it sink in.
Because of money.
So while you can’t find a mental health diagnosis called financial insanity, you can be sure that some of the extreme levels of anxiety being seen have a financial root.
Not Talking About Money
And yet, we’re not talking about it. In fact, that same poll indicated that only half of the money worriers were talking about their fears with someone they trusted.
Sexual abuse? Talking about it.
Depression? Yup, we’re talking about it.
Stress about money? No, too close to home. We couldn’t possibly have a conversation about how we’ve been foolish with our money. It’d be far too uncomfortable to admit that we don’t have it together financially and that we need to make major changes in our life to get our house in order.
No no, it would be too embarrassing. We couldn’t ever discuss that openly.
Except, we can.
The confident, self-assured woman who had been sexually abused thought the same thing.
So did the successful, seemingly unflappable man who struggled each day with crippling depression.
It wasn’t until they found the incredible courage to shine a light on the skeletons in their closet that they realized they could do the unthinkable. They could talk about the thing that scared them spitless. The thing that squeezed their soul with an iron-fisted grip.
And once they did, once they shone the bright light of truth into the deep, dark places they had sworn they’d take to the grave, the thing that once controlled them lost its power.
It wasn’t that it didn’t affect them anymore. It did. But they weren’t slaves to it.
Let’s Talk Money
We NEED to talk about our issues with money.
We do. It’s not something that we can ignore any longer. It’s not one of those things we can chuckle about and pass off as being “just the way things are”.
That’s what people said about men acting like pigs towards women.
It’s how we treated mental health issues up until a few years ago.
We can’t afford to say it about our money any longer.
Who Should You Talk To?
The best person to start talking about your money with is your significant other or close family members. This can often times be the hardest step to take when discussing financial concerns. We may be worried that if we reveal how stressed we are about money, and how we’ve contributed to our difficulties, we’ll be blamed. We worry that we’ll lose the respect of our partner or family and that the relationship will suffer.
But our fears go even deeper than that.
One of the reasons we don’t want to talk about our financial worries and struggles is because if we don’t give voice to them, they seem less real.
As long as they exist only in our minds, in our bank accounts or on the bills we get each month, our problems seem less real.
Obviously, they are still there, but in our minds somehow we’re removed from them. We can stuff them into those dark places deep inside of us where we don’t’ have to deal with them.
But when we talk about them?
The cat’s out of the bag. The lid is removed from Pandora’s box. The can of worms? It’s torn wide open.
If your fear of talking to your significant other or family is too great, or if it’s just not a possibility, another option is to find a financial counsellor. These professional counsellors can help you determine where you are struggling and empower you to take control of your money.
Not Easy, But Worth It
Regardless of who you talk to, you need to talk to someone.
These problems have lurked beneath the surface for far too long. We all know people who are struggling.
They are our brothers and sisters, moms and dads, friends and colleagues.
They are us.
It’s time to bring these issues into the light and discuss them openly, without fear or shame.
It won’t be easy. Making changes like this never are. But it’s so critically necessary. We need to start having the conversations.
So let’s talk money.
What financial struggles have you had that you feel ashamed or guilty about? What skeletons are hiding in your bank account that you want to stay hidden? Let me know on Twitter @method_money or on Facebook @methodtoyourmoney and #letstalkmoney.