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Our Cost of Living Crisis Just Got Much Worse, and Our Mental Health Is in Jeopardy

Editor's Note

The following article contains details about the cost of living crisis that may be triggering.

It feels like every week, there’s something new to worry about with the economy and its effect on our mental health. The fallout of the COVID-19 pandemic, alongside the war in Ukraine and the decade of austerity in my home turf of the United Kingdom, means that our cost of living has skyrocketed to the highest rate in decades.

Today’s news is even worse, though. The government regulator for the electricity and downstream natural gas markets in Great Britain, Ofgem, announced on Friday, August 26, that Britons will see an 80% spike in our annual U.K. energy bills. This is following a record 54% increase in April, meaning the average customer could go from £1,971 ($2,332) per year to a shocking £3,549 per year.

This means that many in Great Britain will be forced to choose between heating their homes or feeding their families this coming winter. Personally, while I don’t have children, I’m even worried about ensuring our cats can stay warm.

This is having a dramatic effect on my mental health. I’ve previously written about the way climate change is affecting global health, and this is absolutely part of it. As that article reported, many feel like governments are not taking adequate action on climate change, and the same can be said here. As our government bickers over who will be the next prime minister, with the likely candidate treating Scotland’s first minister Nicola Sturgeon like one would a spoiled child, I have little faith that there will be any end to the Conservative government’s reign of austerity, let alone relief for the United Kingdom’s poorest people.

Our mental health services are falling apart. NHS wait times are longer than ever. And now, with many toeing the line of poverty, I am left to wonder what will be next.

I’m scared for my future. I’m scared for my generation. While many (myself included) have pledged to join dontpay.uk — a widespread movement against the rise in energy bills this October 1 — I fail to believe that it will achieve much of anything when it often feels like this government truly doesn’t care about its people.

Financial worries aren’t new to me, nor to people living with mental illness. Financial anxiety is rampant. Bipolar disorder can directly impact finances during mania. The Mighty’s lead writer Brittany Johnson said it best: “You’re not bad with money. The world is on fire and life isn’t affordable.”

So, what are we to do? Personally, I have to believe that making our voices heard will have some impact. I have to believe that if enough people demand the government does something to curb the skyrocketing cost of living, then they will be forced to listen. I have to believe that someone will step in. If I don’t, then both my mental health and my physical health are at risk. But as our outgoing prime minister Boris Johnson pledges support, he does so while returning from a holiday in Slovenia and a second holiday in Greece. Meanwhile, chancellor Nadhim Zahawi’s short-term solution is for people to try to cut back on energy consumption.

The problem isn’t with regular people’s energy consumption. The problem, as ever, lies in a system that is rigged against us. As national director of the Democratic Socialists of America Maria Svart said, capitalism isn’t broken. “It is working all too well, concentrating money in the hands of the few by exploiting the work of the many.” Climate change, war, widespread poverty, and mass migration are the inevitable results, and so it feels like our battle against our rising cost of living is only just beginning.

Getty Images photo via fizkes

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