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Blog Post 9 May 2022

Are high energy bills affecting your mental health?

If you’re in one of the 22 million homes that saw energy bills rocket by over 54% in April, then these might feel like challenging times.

We know some households are having to make big changes to their lives to cover rising costs. We also know that worrying about money and having a cold home are two things known to impact mental health.

In support of Mental Health Awareness Week 2022, we spoke to mental health charity Mind about the impact of the current energy and cost of living crisis, the link between loneliness and mental health, and the support available if you need help.

People are finding things tough

The cost of living is at its highest level in a decade, with household energy bills being the largest expense. It’s not too surprising, then, to learn that people are worried about their finances and getting into debt.

According to Mind, the charity’s Infoline has seen a 30% increase in calls where debt or personal finances are stated as the reason for the call (comparison period: Q4 2020/21 vs Q4 2021/22).

There’s also a key trend in the issues people are facing – from worries about eviction and making choices about what to spend money on (particularly on food or heating) to benefit deductions and the increase in utility costs.

If you need extra support to manage your energy bills, Citizens Advice can help. Their advice covers everything from grants available to help you pay your bills to setting up a payment plan with your energy supplier.

Mental health and loneliness

This year’s Mental Health Awareness Week is raising awareness of the impact of loneliness on our mental wellbeing. But how does loneliness contribute to poor mental health and what practical steps can people take to address is?

“We all feel lonely from time to time,” says Jess, a member of the Mind information team. “Feeling lonely isn’t in itself a mental health problem, but the two are strongly linked.

“Having a mental health problem can increase your chance of feeling lonely. For example, some people may have misconceptions about what certain mental health problems mean, so you may find it difficult to speak to them about your experiences.

“Feeling lonely can also have a negative impact on your mental health, especially if these feelings have lasted a long time. Feelings of loneliness are personal, so everyone’s experience of loneliness will be different.”

Tips to help if you’re feeling lonely

Worrying about money and how to afford your energy bills can be overwhelming for many people, and if you’re already feeling lonely or in need of support, this additional pressure could make some feel even more isolated.

If you live alone, for example, or are the sole earners in your household, you might feel overwhelmed by the prospect of having to pay for higher energy and food bills on your own. Jess says: “If you’re feeling lonely, there are some things you could try to help with these feelings. It can be difficult to think about trying to meet new people or opening up to people for the first time, but you don’t need to rush into anything.

“Some people find that joining a peer support group or a class or group based around their interests is helpful. Others may benefit from talking to friends or family. Or you might find that talking therapies could help you to explore your feelings of loneliness and develop positive ways of dealing with them.

“It’s important to remember that ways of managing loneliness can also work for different people at different times. If something isn’t working for you (or doesn’t feel possible just now), you can try something else, or come back to it another time. The Mind website has more tips for managing loneliness.”

Mental health and money

The energy crisis has had a serious impact on many household finances, and this can contribute to poor mental health. As Jess explains: “Money and mental health can sometimes work like a vicious cycle – money problems can lead to poor mental health and poor mental health can make it harder to earn and manage money. Trying to cope can feel overwhelming. And lots of things may be out of your control.”

Jess’s final piece of advice is: “Try taking things one step at a time. Take a look at the Mind website for some organisations that could help and support you with managing your money and debt, and exploring access to benefits and grants. We also have some suggestions for getting support for your mental health.”

Find support near you

If you need professional money advice or support with your mental health, there is help available from Mind.

If you’re looking for quick, easy and free ways to reduce your energy bills, our quick tips can help you save hundreds of pounds.

In England, if you need extra support to manage your energy bills, Citizens Advice can help.

In Wales, Nest’s team of friendly advisors can help you find financial support you may be entitled to.

If you live in Scotland and need advice on paying your energy bills, contact Home Energy Scotland.

And in Northern Ireland, please get in touch with the Northern Ireland Energy Advice line.

Last updated: 10 May 2022