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The challenges of balancing financial and mental health

Maine has numerous financial and mental health resources to help with both.

MAINE, USA — It's no secret, managing our finances can be stressful. Whether you're struggling to pay for groceries, pay off credit card debt, or find enough money for rent, managing our money can have a major impact on our mental health.

"We live in a capitalistic society where so often I don't necessary agree with it, but our worth and our sense of self worth gets tied with our financial stability," Greg Marley, director of suicide prevention with NAMI Maine, said.

"I hear it framed as, 'I'm one paycheck away from a disaster,' 'I'm one medical event away from financial ruin.' That sense of uncertainty raises real stress," Marley said.

It's that feeling of stress and anxiety that can be felt by so many across the nation and here in Maine. But luckily, there are numerous resources across the state to support those struggling.

"Once individuals begin to talk about it and open up, they begin to realize that all of us struggle with our finances on some level," Mary Dyer, financial education program manager with the Finance Authority of Maine, said.

Dyer works with families every day to help them plan, budget, and save. While much of FAME's work centers around helping families plan for college and other large expenses, they have many programs to help individuals get a grip on their finances.

"Removing some of that shame and anxiety begins with talking about it," Dyer said. 

Dyer says there are a number of small steps anyone can take to feel more security in their finances. 

"We do generally lack sufficient rainy day funds and emergency saving," Dyer said. "A great place to start is to focus on just setting aside a small amount of money, each week or each month into an emergency savings account." 

Dyer says it's also very helpful to take a look at all monthly expenses and evaluate where you're spending your money. Analyzing every penny spent each month can help those struggling financially and allow them to make small adjustments to help save on monthly expenses, she added. 

"Once you reach that small initiation goal, you feel empowered to continue on," Dyer said.  

Dyer also said it can helpful to meet with someone that works a financial institution you bank with or connect with local resources like FAME or New Ventures Maine, which can also help individuals craft a budget and learn about their finances.

Another tool offered by FAME is the Enrich program. This online program has features to allow users to identify spending habits, budget expenses, manage student loans, and plan for retirement.

There are many different avenues one can take to address their finances, something experts with NAMI Maine and FAME agree on, but the first step to take is to reach out.

"It might be a pastor, it might be a mentor. It's that first step to kind of pave the way that's a path out this," Marley said. "It's not all therapy, it's not all medication. Those are two tools. But how do you change the stresses in your life? It's the same as FAME says, 'How do you look at what is in control for your budget?' 'What is in your control in terms of your health and mental health?'" 

If you're struggling, help is out there. You can also call the new national mental health crisis hotline at 9-8-8.

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