STRONGER TOGETHER: The cost of living crisis and the toll on mental health

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Last updated: 13/02/2023

"STRONGER TOGETHER" is a weekly column where Tanya explores key issues. This week Tanya discusses the impact the cost of living crisis is having on mental health.

By IMPACT Community Services Managing Director Tanya O'Shea

Tanya O'Shea, IMPACT Community Services Managing Director

If you are feeling like conversations about the cost of living crisis are consuming our news and social media feeds at the moment you are not alone. A simple Google search will provide you with 2.860 billion results in less than one second. Let’s sit with that for a minute.

2.860 billion pieces of information related to cost of living available to you within 0.44 of a second. Wow, is it any wonder that we are feeling overwhelmed and stressed by this?

Every day, the news headlines scream about interest rate increases, skyrocketing energy bills, reduced consumer spending and the rising cost of groceries. Last year, Suicide Prevention Australia’s State of the Nation Report found that the state of the economy was the number one driver of distress across Australia.

The report ranked the cost of living and personal debt as the biggest risk to rising suicide rates over the next 12 months by both the public and suicide prevention sector. This is the first time an economic issue has overtaken social issues such as drugs, loneliness and family breakdown, and it’s cause for real concern.

We know that the financial strain is real – every Australian is feeling the pinch on their purse strings, having to either find extra money or go without. And while each one of us is living with the daily burden of this additional financial strain, very few consider the toll that it’s having on their mental wellbeing.

Please take a moment to pause and consider whether your own mental wellbeing, or that of someone close to you, is being adversely affected.  

Mental wellbeing exists on a continuum, ranging from languishing to flourishing. At first, we might not recognise the symptoms associated with languishing. According to psychologist Adam Grant, some people may have trouble concentrating, perhaps feeling somewhat joyless or aimless. For others, they may experience a sense of stagnation or emptiness. The reality is that currently, 80% of the population can be experiencing languishing at any given point in time. This statistic is unacceptable, so what can we do to change this?

The Queensland Alliance for Mental Health are leading the way in this space, suggesting that a focus on mental wealth can shift the dial. Defined as ‘the collective cognitive and emotional resources of citizens, it includes people’s mental capital, their mental health and wellbeing which underpins the ability to work productively, creatively and build and maintain positive relationships.’ They believe that a mental wealth approach which values the wellbeing of its people will take seriously all levels of human distress, addressing it early with the expectation that it will prevent chronic and costly states of languishing.

There is no silver bullet to addressing the level of languishing being experienced in our community. We do, however, have the best opportunity yet to pull together and consider what we can do to support each other through these difficult times, whether that’s supporting local businesses, sharing what we have with our family, friends and neighbours, or being open to new strategies that will start to capitalise on our nation’s mental wealth.  

If you are struggling with your mental health, you’re not alone. If you or someone you know needs help, please reach out.

Counselling and Mental Health support

Lifeline: 13 11 44 (24 hours a day)
Beyond Blue: 1300 224 636 (24 Hours)

Financial Counselling
National debt helpline: 1800 007 007 or www.ndh.org.au
Mob Strong Debt Helpline: 1800 808 488
A free legal advice service about money batters for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples from anywhere in Australia.

Please note: This website may contain references to, or feature images, videos, and voices of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples who have passed away.

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