The issue of debt is the proverbial elephant in the room; nobody wants to talk about it, yet it's having a detrimental impact on all of us. It has an effect on people on multiple levels, including emotional, physical, and spiritual, and it disproportionately affects the Black population.
The pandemic has led to an increase in the debt of the vast majority of Americans. Many people who couldn't afford essentials or luxuries would have perished if they hadn't borrowed money. Becoming deeply in debt, on the other hand, can leave you feeling anxious and depressed about your financial future.
The four major types of debt in America are student loans, home loans, auto loans and credit cards. Student loan debt disproportionately affects most minorities. According to J Geiman of the Center for Law and Social Policy (CLASP), Black borrowers are most likely to feel the long-term stress of student debt while obtaining the fewest rewards from higher education. A whopping 48 percent of Black students owe 12.5 percent more than their original loan amount after four years while their white peers owe less than their original loan amount after the same amount of time. Black borrowers also hold 186 percent more debt than their white counterparts, even 15 years after graduation, stated Geiman.
The stress of repaying these debts impedes people's ability to purchase a home or have a family. Debt can make people feel isolated and burdened, and these sentiments are exacerbated when they deal with debt alone. According to a 2021 mental health survey, 1 in 14 borrowers suffered suicidal ideation as a result of the financial burden of student loans. According to a Royal College of Psychiatrists study, half of all adults with debt also have mental health problems. Furthermore, debt can interfere with your sleep, eating habits, and attention, all of which can lead to additional debt, which is also known as "debt stress syndrome."
While debt can be difficult to handle, BET.com has five tips to help you take care of your mental health:
- Speak to a debt advisor
There are free debt specialists and management services available to those in need of help with their debt. The National Debtline and Payplan offer specialist advice, debt management services and guides on budgeting and alternative debt solutions. Some credit unions also offer free or low-cost debt counseling.
- See a therapist
A therapist can best help you navigate the stresses and emotions that come with debt. Free or low-cost therapy services can be available for those who need them. Call your local community center, hospital, or place of worship to inquire about their mental health services.
- Address debt head-on
Acknowledging the reality of your financial situation is the start of addressing your debt. Ignoring debt often makes the situation and your feelings worse—feelings of denial, shame, blame and more can come with being in debt. When you’re ready, go through all your financial paperwork, call your creditors, and pay off what debts you can even if it's only in small amounts at a time.
- Do things you enjoy
Don’t obsess over your debt or pause your life completely because of it. Continue doing things you enjoy to ensure that you are happy. Instead, make financial changes like creating a budget, pinpointing a debt repayment strategy and decreasing your spending in some areas of your life.
- Take care of your physical health
Physical activity and good eating habits are proven to improve people’s mental health and emotional wellbeing, especially when done regularly. Exercise and a good diet can calm your mind and body and can help alleviate symptoms that are caused by stress, anxiety and depression.