In honor of Mental Health Awareness Month, I wanted to take some time to discuss two big issues in our community: mental health and personal finance.
Mental health and personal finance are two taboo topics we often tiptoe around, left undiscussed at dinner tables, club meetings, or during our leisure time. In fact, it’s more common that these topics surface when it is too late and we’re in the hole desperately looking for an escape.
Financial stress is one of the leading causes of depression and divorce. Not earning enough income can make us feel pressure to perform and contribute to low self-esteem. Depression can cause us to lose sight of the disciplines we’ve established around saving, budgeting, investing, and self educating. Where do the lines of mental health and financial wealth intersect?
Financial wealth and mental health are lines that run parallel to one another so closely that an adverse impact to one can (and many times will) have an adverse impact on the other.
It is said that the first step to solving a problem is acknowledging that there is one. Consider this the acknowledgment. As a community we need to consciously acknowledge that:
- We have suffered through some serious financial trauma– and still do to this day! As such we place the bar on our potential to build wealth pretty low, unless we are a professional athlete or entertainer. This, coupled with practices like predatory lending, redlining, eminent domain, a lack of financial education, and the creation of dependent systems and ghettos (like welfare and “projects”), keep the trauma at the forefront often making it difficult to conceptualize escape and the achievement of financial wealth. Think about the justice system and how many people can’t post bail or afford an attorney. Think about the healthcare system and the negligence experienced by those in poverty or close to poverty. Think about the education system in urban areas that can’t provide new books and technology or a safe place to play for recreation. Think about the stress all of this creates around simple survival and the translation this has on how you define power and who has it.
- We have ostracized the idea of seeking therapy for our mental burdens, instead choosing to “remain strong” or “have faith” while we actively avoid having someone “in our head”. In fact, I remember doing an exercise as a child with my grandfather where he asked me to spell out the word therapist and then instructed me to tell him which two words I saw present (the and rapist). This is one of many examples where we either consciously or unconsciously pass on biases against taking action due to internalized fears or general distrust in institutions that can possibly help us to survive and thrive under the right circumstances. Institutions that have failed us time and time again. So what do we do? We self medicate.
In acknowledging these issues it is clear that we have learned to self sabotage by simultaneously minimizing our potential, while distancing our chances for success. We subscribe to things like self-fulfilling prophecies and generational curses, and we are fearful of success and the burden it carries. We get so used to chaos and acting out of survival that we fail to see the longevity in life.
Rather than learn ways to earn and grow money we embrace instant gratification to self medicate, often spending what we earn on vices and material goods to boost our vacant esteem– a term coined by Dr. Joy DeGruy in her book, Post Traumatic Slave Syndrome, that describes feelings of helplessness, depression, and a general self destructive outlook.
After acknowledgment it’s time to take action. You start by having the conversation. By building your self esteem and eliminating limiting beliefs. You build a team of people who can help uplift and encourage you to believe in yourself, to seek counsel, and to believe in “the impossibility of impossibility.” You go get help.
You want to break generational curses? Then learn to embrace behaviors and attitudes about approaching your mental health and that of those around you. Learn the fundamentals of financial education and slowly build on them. Challenge the attitudes and biases against taking action that we pass down from generation to generation. Keep your faith, but know that faith will only meet you halfway. You need to do the work! Yes, these two lines run parallel and as such need to be addressed simultaneously because wealth building starts in the mind.
Rahkim is a Connecticut-based, hybrid-entrepreneur with nearly 10 years experience in banking, a 2x author, and non-profit cofounder. He is active on Instagram/Twitter @RahkimSabree. Visit his website at RahkimSabree.com where you can find his book “Financially Irresponsible”.