A woman who shut herself off from her family after falling into debt is encouraging others not to suffer in silence.
Christmas can be a stressful time for most people as they strive to find the perfect gift for loved ones.
However, for some the financial pressures can end up becoming too much to bear.
Debt has been proven to have strong links with mental health and vice versa.
But while debt can be manageable, life situations including unemployment, relationship breakdown or illness can affect our ability to make those payments.
And it can lead to people feeling trapped and unable to see a way out of their current situation.
According to figures from Mind, one in four adults will have a mental health problem at some point in their life, while one in two adults with debts has a mental health problem.
The woman, who does not want to be named, found herself sinking deeper into depression as a result of her money worries.
After finally speaking to her GP, she was put in touch with Mind, who helped talk through what was troubling her and signpost her to a money advisor.
The 39-year-old said: “I didn’t realise at first I was struggling with debt as I was robbing Peter to pay Paul. My husband had lost his job and we found ourselves getting deeper and deeper into a hole. We’d always managed before this and always paid everything on time. I started to hide things from him because he was feeling bad enough as it was. Like it was all his fault.
“I started to have trouble sleeping, I didn’t want to eat, I didn’t want to do anything, I just worried myself silly – all the time not telling anyone I was struggling.
“I became so tired and I was exhausted, emotionally and physically. I stopped going to see my family, I felt so alone.
“In the end I spoke to my GP and we spoke about depression and how it can take hold of people.”
She was put in touch with Mind and after going to see them and talking to one of the workers, she was able to open up about her money worries without the feeling of someone judging her.
Although, she says the couple are not out of the woods yet, financially, she has taken control and done something about it. She added: “I didn’t know there were services out there that could help me. I’d never been in debt before. What I would like to say is a thank you to Mind. I now understand how my mental health has been affected by not asking for help when I really needed it and by trying to just battle on.
“One thing I have taken from this experience, is that I’m not alone in this. I even managed to speak to my husband and my family about it and they are also supporting me.
“I will never keep any problems to myself again, because talking, to people who really cared and showed compassion helped me to get things sorted out.
“I just wish I’d spoken about things earlier.”
Our series of articles in the run-up to Christmas, supported by Hartlepool and East Durham Mind, aims to encourage people to reach out to others and let those struggling know support is available.
Today, people are asked to deliver a card to a friend or neighbour, where possible, hand it to them personally and ask if they’re OK.