Money, Survival, and Mental Health

Any conversations we have about mental health need to also involve money. This isn't about whether or not money can buy happiness, or how it feels to receive money, or really anything about money itself.

No, this is about survival.

In the modern world, money is how we survive. We use it to pay for the necessities of life. This includes the traditional basics of food, water, clothing, and shelter, but also requirements of modern living, such as Internet access, phone service, electricity, and transportation. Simply put, in order to function and survive in this modern world, people need money.

So what happens if you don't have enough money to cover these needs? What if you struggle to make ends meet? What this really means is that you are struggling to survive. And if no one helps, if you feel unable to rise to these challenges? Then it feels like the universe doesn't want you to survive.

Like people don't want you to survive.

This takes a mental toll, as you begin to feel worthless. This innate sense of worthlessness is nearly impossible to overcome, because the harsh truth of reality is always there, lingering at the back of your mind: If people really cared about me, wouldn't they help me to survive?

If it seems like no one is helping you to survive (whether or not this is actually true—what we perceive becomes our emotional reality, even if our logical mind knows differently), then you can't help but conclude that no one truly values you. The logic is simple: If they really valued you, they'd help you survive, wouldn't they? So if they aren't, then they must not actually care. This makes it very hard to feel genuinely valued by others, or to even feel genuinely valuable at all.

Addressing poverty and financial instability is important to addressing mental health, because helping people to survive demonstrates to them that they are valued. I want to highlight financial instability here, because not knowing how you are going to survive—to pay for your needs—is extremely stressing. That uncertainty regarding survival is also devaluing. Given how much of our economy has become gig-based, this type of financial uncertainty has most assuredly been increasing over the last several years, and with it, rising feelings of worthlessness, pointlessness, and nihilism.

Again, this feeling of worthlessness derived from financial struggles and hardship, which is fundamentally about the struggle to survive, permeates everything. It doesn't matter how much you contribute to society, how much good you do for others, or how much they say they value you. You don't feel like what you're doing is valuable if no one seems to care enough to help you actually survive and the only people willing to give you money are trying to exploit you.

It is my firm belief that we as a society must do something to address low and unstable income. For the sake of our fellow human beings—for their sense of value, purpose, and wellbeing—we must address it.

Thank you for reading.

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