Matt’s Story: Dealing with Mental Health & Debt

Did you know that suicide is the single biggest killer in men under 45? With societal pressures to “man up” and keep mentally strong, men tend to be more reluctant at speaking up and asking for help.

Matt (@mattnicholsmentalhealth), aged 24, is now speaking up and joining many others on social media platforms to share his story, spread awareness and fight the stigma attached with mental health, especially men’s.

In March 2020, after suffering with anxiety and depression, Matt made several attempts to end his own life. Through his own will power and determination, Matt started his recovery in July 2020 and is now keen to help others. He also openly discusses his debt issues that caused him to get into a vicious cycle that was difficult to get out of. He said, “mental health got me into debt, then debt made my mental health spiral further.

Matt kindly shared his story with us:

When did you start realising that you were getting into debt? What were you spending your money on?

“I would say I was always conscious of it, I just never faced up to it. When I was at university, I had maxed out my overdraft within the first three months. 80% of that went on nights out. When I came home, I never really got a handle on things and then I also started getting into drugs.”

It has been proven that men are more likely to respond to their mental health issues with more “risky” behaviour such as alcohol and drug abuse. This then becomes a difficult habit to break.

Matt continues:

“I had a rough patch Christmas 2019 when my mental health was at an all-time low and I increased my alcohol and drug use. To fund this, I ended up taking out three credit cards and three pay day loans in the space of four months. I lost my job during this period and, as you can probably imagine, it all spiralled out of control.”

According to Rethink, people with mental health illnesses can turn to alcohol/drugs as a form of “self-medication” but the cruel irony with this is that it can actually make the symptoms worse. For Matt, his substance abuse also caused him financial problems as he began to get into more and more debt.

Was being in debt what caused you to attempt suicide?

“I don’t think debt was the only factor but it was a factor. It was a vicious loop for me. I was depressed and anxious and my coping mechanism was to go out, drink and do drugs. But my income couldn’t support my lifestyle and I’d have to use money that wasn’t mine. I think because I justified the debt as my coping mechanism, I continued to fall deeper into that trap.”

The RCPsych projected that one in two adults with debts has a mental health problem. Payday loans are renowned for having high interest rates and are therefore not sustainable in the long run.

How are you managing your mental health and debts now? 

“The first step is always to acknowledge that there is a problem and then commit to tackling it. For me, debt and my health almost went hand in hand so when I committed to bettering my mental health, clearing out my debt had to be a part of that. I’ve learned how to budget well and started working through my debts with the highest interest first and working my way down. I also took on a second job although I would stress that this isn’t advice because for many people it will not be practical (parents, people who burn out easily, people who are anxious about working, etc).”

Matt is currently cycling 300km in the month of March to raise money for Cancer Research UK.

If you would like to donate, here is the link to Matt’s fundraising page:

Matthew’s Cycle 300 Fundraising Page | Cancer Research UK Giving Pages

The most important message we get from this answer is first accepting that you have a problem and need to change. We understand that this must be the hardest and biggest step to make but a necessary one in order to recover. Matt has a really clear step by step plan to pay off his debts and keep on top of his mental health. “Where is Matt up to now?” we hear you say…

“At the time of writing, I have cleared off £4,500 of my £6,000 debt!”

This is an amazing achievement in such a short space of time which wouldn’t have been possible without Matt’s strong-minded attitude, positive outlook and willingness to change. 

What will you do in the future to ensure that you don’t get back into debt?

“I will use all of the lessons that I’ve learned around budgeting, personal finance etc. A big part of it is maintaining my wellbeing is staying clear of boozy and drugged up nights. As well as this, when my debt is cleared, I plan to start investing my money wisely, although I’ve not started this journey yet so promise to update you when I do!”

This is great advice for anyone, regardless of whether they have debts or not. Maintaining mental wellbeing is paramount and wisely investing money is definitely a way forward.

With male mental health having more stigma attached to it and men being more reluctant to speak out, our final question to Matt was on this topic.

What advice would you give to someone who’s struggling with their mental health/debt, specifically men?

  1. First and foremost, acknowledge and accept that we have these problems. Here’s the good news – there’s always a way out.
  2. The most important thing is to speak out to whoever you feel comfortable talking to. Having people who understand the problem and who can listen and advise us is super important.
  3. In regards to debt, try not to overwhelm yourself with too much with the total figure – break them down step by step starting with the ones that are charging you the most interest. Once you’ve paid that off, you can see the extra money in your account and it gets easier and easier. Learn how to budget. Look up the 50:30:20 method, probably the simplest budgeting method in my opinion.
  4. Most importantly DON’T GIVE UP. Bad days wills happen but pick yourself up and go again!

Matt gives us some very good advice here (watch out Martin Lewis) and is living proof that things can get better when you admit that there is a problem and actively put a plan in place to change those.

We have already seen how passionate Matt is to raise awareness and to help others. We are really thankful to Matt for being so open with us so we are able to learn a bit more about what people with mental health issues have had to battle.

Regardless of your age, gender, race, etc., speaking out does NOT show weakness – it shows strength. This is a message that is so important to get across because speaking to someone could literally save your life!

Nick & Lucy x

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