The suicide rate in the United States has increased dramatically in recent years, and certified trainer Tammy Lally of Washington, DC, is convinced that the shame of money is a contributing factor.
Lally’s brother committed suicide in 2007 after receiving a foreclosure notice. Soon after, Lally’s mortgage business collapsed during the Great Recession. She says she went from driving a Mercedes and living in a seaside house to bankruptcy.
“It blew me away, the level of pain and sadness I was feeling,” Lally says. “I haven’t told anyone. I pretended nothing was happening.
She eventually realized she was ashamed – a deep feeling that she was fundamentally flawed and unworthy because of her financial problems. When she changed careers to become a financial advisor, she began to notice how pervasive these feelings were. Some customers were ashamed their debts, or their wealth. Others have lived beyond their means or “played the big part”, picking up the tab in restaurants or constantly rescuing others.
“I see that each of my clients is ashamed of their money,” she says. “We live in a culture where our money is worth our value.”
The origins of the shame of money
We weren’t born knowing how to manage your money, and everyone makes mistakes with their finances, says Lindsay Bryan-Podvin, financial therapist in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Additionally, there are many factors beyond our control, such as the economy, industry trends, and unemployment rates.
Too often, however, people feel like there is something wrong with them if they are struggling with their finances. They may feel stupid, immoral, lazy, or “bad with money”, or ruminate on what they should have done differently.
“When we make mistakes with money or things happen to us, we tend to internalize it and make it really personal,” says Bryan-Podvin, author of “The Financial Anxiety Solution”. “If you are fighting, it is a good sign that there is shame about the money.”
Shame about money can cause us to spend too much to “keep up with the Joneses”. avoid our finances or criticize others who are struggling, says certified financial planner Edward Coambs, marriage and family therapist in Charlotte, North Carolina.
“Shame pushes us to pass judgment,” says Coambs. “Because when we see other people struggling with something, it creates discomfort for us.”
Many therapists and researchers say that shame is different from guilt: we feel guilty when we have done something wrong, but feel shame when we think we are bad or deeply flawed. People may believe they are so flawed that they are not worthy of being loved or connected with others, Coambs says. In extreme cases, it could lead to suicidal thoughts.
“Shame is really a loss of relationship,” Coambs says. “It tells you that I am neither worthy nor worthy to be in a relationship with myself or with another person.”
Shame and suicide
Suicides rarely have a single cause, and researchers can only speculate as to why the suicide rate is rising and falling. Studies show that suicides tend to increase with the unemployment rate, and a 2020 study for the American Journal of Epidemiology found that financial strain is a significant risk factor for suicide attempts.
But over the past two decades, suicide rates have increased in both good and bad economic times. The suicide rate rose 35% from 1999 to 2018, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, before dropping in 2019 from 14.2 suicides per 100,000 people to 13.9. Statistics for 2020 are not yet available.
Lindsay hypothesizes that income stagnation and increased economic insecurity could be contributing factors. Coambs notes that the suicide rate for men in the United States is more than three times that of women, which could be in part due to internal pressure to be “providers and performers.”
“Men struggle more with their mental health (after financial setbacks) because they tend to associate their personal worth with their income or net worth,” Coambs says.
What can you do against the shame of money
This is all frightening. But suicide is preventable (The national suicide prevention hotline is 800-273-8255), and the shame of money can be tamed, financial therapists say. The first step is to recognize how you are feeling.
“The first and most pragmatic piece is to be able to name it,” says Coambs. “Having language to describe experiences helps start to alleviate distress.”
So can get support. Being able to discuss the shame of money with someone you trust can help you feel less alone, says Lindsay.
“A lot of people think they’re the only person in the world or the only person in their community to have known the shame of money,” says Lindsay.
Being compassionate with yourself and seeking lessons from experience can also help. Ask yourself what you can learn or what you can do differently next time.
Lally turned her experience into a TED talk that has been viewed over 2 million times, “Let’s Be Honest About Our Money Problems” and a book, “Money Detox”.
“I didn’t have a name for it until it happened to me,” Lally says. “And my mission is to get people to talk about it.”
This article was written by TBEN and was originally published by The The Bharat Express News.