Dealing with financial issues and taxes can be difficult for all of us, but they can be espe
cially challenging when you’re experiencing depression. It can be hard to take care of your basic needs when you feel down or hopeless, let alone interact with other people, get or hold a job, or manage your money. Job loss, unemployment, and debt can compound depression or trigger an episode in those prone to it. Although it may seem like you don’t have many options, there are many stress-reducing tips and low-cost programs that can help you get your finances in order or get you back on your feet.
• Communicate your needs. You might feel ashamed or embarrassed to discuss your finances or your mental health, but try to keep in mind that depression is a very real and debilitating disease and take pride that you are working to improve your situation. Depression can also warp your perspective, make you feel that your situation is worse than it is, and prevent you from seeing or exploring your options. Take the incredible strength it takes to deal with depression and try to funnel it into speaking out and getting assistance. By relating your feelings and fears to friends, loved ones, health care professionals, or service agency staff, you help open the door to solutions. Others can provide emotional support and connect you to services you might not have known existed.
• Stay on your treatment plan. Give yourself a good foundation for mental and financial health by making sure you see your therapist and take your meds. If you haven’t been doing so, pick up the phone to ask your health care provider for emergency meds and make an in-person appointment. Your physician may be able to provide you with free medication samples in a pinch. They can also contact drug companies’ patient assistance programs, which offer free or low-cost medication programs to those in need. If you don’t have a therapist or physician, and if cost is an issue, there are many city-, state-, or federally funded mental health programs that can help, as well as inexpensive health centers for college students. If you feel you may need emergency medication or assistance, call 911 or go to a hospital emergency room or call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.
• Take small steps. If dealing with finances or preparing taxes seems like an overwhelming job, take one step at a time. Trying just logging on to a tax prep program, gathering your W2s and financial statements, or taking a quick inventory of your monthly expenses vs. income. Even if your financial situation is not ideal, once you get started, you’ll probably feel some relief that you are taking steps to tackle it. Then you can start formulating short-term goals like completing you taxes or trimming monthly costs.
Tackle your taxes.
• Use free tax file programs: For those who make $62,000 a year or less, you can prepare and file your tax return online for free, using tax prep software from the IRS as well as leading brands.
• Pay taxes in installments: If you’ve filed but don’t have the funds to pay your taxes, you can set up an installment plan with the IRS that will allow you to spread your payments over months or even years. Or contact the IRS to request a temporary delay in payment or apply for hardship status, which can mean relief from penalties or a reduction in your bill.
• Late filing: If you missed the filing deadline, contact your tax professional or call the IRS to discuss your situation. You’ll understand the extent of penalties and learn about options.
Seek out support groups. It can be extremely helpful and normalizing to talk about your frustrations and speak with others that are experiencing the same issues. Seek out your local mental health or financial support group for comfort, encouragement, and ideas about how to handle these challenges.
Comprehensive Services. If you feel you need more comprehensive financial or medical assistance, there are programs that can help:
• Intensive Case Manager (ICM) Services: ICMs can provide you with intensive, one-on-one support to help you navigate daily activities as well as financial management. Available through city or state agencies.
• SSI (Social Security Income) or SSDI (Social Security Disability): These federal programs provide needed financial assistance to people with mental health conditions who have limited ability to work.
• Work Employment Program (WEP): Medicaid’s WEP prepares you for a new profession or by providing Internships at various city or state agencies, which can lead to full-time work.
Life comes with ups and downs for all of us. Setbacks inevitably happen and some of us have more than our fair share. When you’re feeling depressed, it’s hard to see your way through setbacks and it’s difficult to be your own advocate. You may not be able to envision a healthy and financially sound future, but remember that just a few small steps can get you back on the path.