Perhaps you’ve heard that money concerns are one of the top sources of stress for most people. In my experience, that’s certainly true. Money problems may in fact be the number-one source of stress for most people. That being said, money problems aren’t the only problems people face. Imagine that, on top of money problems, you are also dealing with depression or other mental health concerns, such as addictions. Many people are all too familiar with how incredibly overwhelming money problems combined with mental health issues can be.
People living with mental health or addiction challenges live with multilayered stress—managing health conditions, employment situations, social isolation, shame, and stigma. On top of all of that, if you add on the stress of not being able to make ends meet, a person can easily feel overcome with a sense of hopelessness. Dr. Ferguson from the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health suggests that money-related stress plays a major role in suicide, and that there is a real need for the health sector to pay proper attention to financial stress.
Momentum’s Money Matters program was established to assist people living with mental health or addiction challenges to improve their financial situations by providing free financial education and financial administration services. People can participate in the program with or without referrals. In the past 14 years, Money Matters has reached out to more than 1900 people in Calgary. Many of the program’s participants have gained skills and knowledge to create effective budgets and to successfully deal with their debts, and many of them have turned their lives around and started saving for their futures.
A recent external evaluation of Momentum’s Money Matters program provided evidence of how important such intervention can be in the lives of people suffering from mental health and addiction problems. Among other things, the evaluation found that the Money Matters program increases financial stability and financial wellness by helping participants become more aware of spending, and by helping participants increase their savings and decrease debt. In addition, participation in Money Matters appears to have a positive impact on mental wellness and seems to assist in improving the ability of participants to manage addictions. Also, stable housing is more likely to be maintained and participants feel more independent and responsible after taking part in Money Matters.
Money Matters participants have indicated that the program has helped them to break free from negative habits that are holding them back. Learning money management is an important tool for people suffering from multiple layers of hardship to empower themselves.