‘We’ve lost upwards of $80,000 this year because of mental illness.’: Wife shares ‘unseen’ costs of mental illness

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“People rarely talk about the financial burden mental illness brings. Last year alone, I can confidently say my husband and I lost upwards of $80,000 because of it. True, the bulk of that number comes from the wages we expected him to earn at the job he no longer holds. That’s a story for another day. Losing your job is never pretty for your bank account, especially when you’re not able to immediately get back into the workforce. My husband has been unemployed for more than a year and a half. And no, he hasn’t been collecting disability, because the process to get approved for such is much harder when your ‘disability’ is a mental illness.

But the rest of that money…? Well, therapy sure isn’t cheap. So many therapists don’t seem to accept insurance, and when you’re looking for a specialist, you don’t always have much of a choice. Not to mention, if you lost your job, you likely don’t have insurance anymore. Thankfully, my husband is young enough that he’s covered under his parent’s insurance for just a bit longer. Their insurance plan is better than most, but we still have to pay copays for our weekly visits, something I don’t see ending or even slowing down any time soon, and those certainly add up. When you’re seeing multiple therapists on an almost weekly basis, and a psychiatrist for frequent medication adjustments and follow-ups, the extra bills each month are likely to be at least a couple hundred dollars. And if therapy and medication don’t help, I shudder to think about the cost of alternative treatment options or intensive treatment programs. If it got him better, it would be worth it. But they’re unbelievably expensive.

Then there’s all the things you don’t really think about…

The late fees, because in the midst of it all, you forgot to pay the bills on time.

The extra delivery charges because you couldn’t bring yourself to get up and make food, or go to the grocery store.

The maintenance repairs on your car because it’s been sitting inactive for too long, with how little you feel like getting out these days.

The clothing and household items that are ruined because you couldn’t bring yourself to properly take care of them.

The missed out on coupons, promotions, and gift cards because you lost track of time and forgot to use them before they expired.

The recommended books, workbooks, and apps you purchased to try to help you work through the tangled mess in your head.

The suggested comfort items and home remedies (people will ALWAYS have suggestions…) you thought you’d try just in case they really did help relieve any of the feelings of depression or anxiety.

The impulse buys you thought might spark some interest or excitement, even if only for a bit. Video games, coloring books, small DIY projects. Anything to reinvigorate some enthusiasm or just distract from the thoughts.

But the long-term costs are what really scare me. I’m certain there will be physical health consequences down the road. We’re dealing with constant levels of extremely high stress. The anxiety and depression keep us bound to the house a lot, and him bound to the bed, so there’s a major lack of physical exercise. Mental illness often leads to some poor hygiene. The stress eating, lack of motivation, and lack of appetite create some terrible eating habits. My husband’s constant oversleeping and total absence of any kind of regular sleep schedule has to be bad for his health. And I worry about my lack of sleep and constant exhaustion, as I’m trying to manage all of the things required to keep us afloat. There’s also the delayed dentist visits and doctor check-ups, and the missed screenings we should probably be scheduling. Maybe it’s just my own anxiety, but I have to believe there will be additional health consequences in the future. And those are also very costly.

I could go on and on about how mental illness not only affects the individual and their assisting family members, but society as a whole. But that’s probably a discussion for another time. I guess my point in all of this is that mental illness negatively effects so many aspects of your life, which in a hellish cycle, negatively compounds the mental illness. Most people would probably never think about or realize how much of an effect it can have on something like your finances. It’s still a little shocking, even to me. But there’s no question, it’s expensive. A burden on your mind and your bank account.”

Woman sits on couch with her head in her hand as she pours over bills and calculates costs.
Courtesy of Aleksandr Davydov Photos (via Canva)

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