Financial Stress

Financial problems can cause stress and can have a significant impact on mental health. For some people, the financial pressures of life may seem impossible to overcome, but there is help and support available.

What is financial stress?

Financial stress can occur in many situations and under various circumstances – what causes one person financial stress may not impact another. Some situations that might cause financial stress include losing your job or being retrenched, long term unemployment, being unable to get full time work, inability to pay your bills or not being able to deal with the increasing costs of living.

Worrying about money is not uncommon, however, if it is affecting your physical or emotional health and relationships, it is important to seek help.


Signs you may need help with your finances and debt

  • Arguing with people close to you about money
  • Withdrawing from others
  • Feelings of guilt about spending money on non-essential items
  • Worrying a lot or feeling anxious
  • Difficulties sleeping
  • Headaches
  • Struggling to feed yourself and your family
  • Paying bills late or seeking extensions
  • Increasing debt from credit cards or loans
  • Receiving legal action for debt recovery
  • Fear of eviction by being behind in rent or loan repayments
  • Income does not cover expenses

There are various ways to reduce your financial stress and to get help.

Start by calculating your budget. There are many online tools that can help with this, such as Money Help / If your budget allows, set aside a small amount of money in a savings account each month for future emergencies — every little bit helps.

If your ongoing bills and expenses exceed your income, consider:

  • Contacting a financial counselling service for free, confidential help.
  • Contacting the people/organisations you owe money. Tell them you are having difficulties and ask for time to work things out. Make progress payments and set up a payment plan. Many services are happy to give you payment extensions if you call them. If you don’t get a helpful response speak to the Hardship Team of the lender or provider you are dealing with.
  • Approaching a welfare service in your area for help with bill payments e.g. power, gas, phone.
  • Approaching community organisations that provide free food hampers or free meals.
  • Getting emotional support if you are feeling overwhelmed mentally or emotionally. Talk to a friend, family member, your GP, counsellor or a helpline like Lifeline.

Below are some of the places to go for information and both practical and psychological support:

  • Money Smart – offers tips, tools and guidance to help you take control of your money and build a better life.
  • The Small Business Debt Helpline – a free and independent service for small businesses and sole traders in financial difficulty. 1800 413 828
  • Salvation Army: 1300 371 288. Financial Assistance
  • National Debt Hotline – a free and confidential service offering resources, advice and referrals. 1800 007 007 (30am to 4.30pm, Monday to Friday). 
  • Centrelink – a crisis payment may be available. Learn more

For Crisis Support contact Lifeline on 13 11 14 (24/7) or via text (12pm – 6am AEDT) on 0477 13 11 14

Financial stress and mental health

When debt builds up and there appears to be no way out, sinking into a depressed or anxious state is a very real danger. Depression is more than just feeling sad or low, it is an illness characterised by a persistent low mood, which can last for weeks or months. 

People dealing with depression may also be more irritable, have changes in sleep or appetite, be fatigued or have a loss of energy, have decreased concentration, or thoughts of suicide. It can last months or even years. Anxiety is the excessive, uncontrollable and often irrational anticipation of future threats. It is more than just worrying. It is an illness characterised by shortness of breath, feeling on edge, restlessness, muscle tension, sweating, sleep disturbance and possibly upset stomach. 

If you are not coping with financial stress and have any negative emotional responses, then it is important to seek help.

Free Financial Counselling (National Debt Helpline)

A free financial counsellor can help you explore your options, negotiate with your creditors, put plans in place to manage your debts and get your finances back under control.

Find out more

For 24-hour telephone crisis support, call Lifeline on 13 11 14

If life is in danger, call 000

Lifeline South Coast would like to acknowledge the lives that have been lost to suicide. We are committed to supporting those with a lived experience of suicide and aim to reduce the stigma around seeking help for poor mental health and suicidal crisis.