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I received a message this weekend from someone I know that was having a crisis.

He was upset and was feeling completely over his head with all of his problems hitting him. This was a bit over my skills, so I'm hoping you have some tips and advice to help him.

The good news is he's staying with a relative that can help out with rooming. So he does have a room over his head (a huge plus) and rent isn't an issue.

Here’s the rest of the situation that has been stressing him out:

  • He suffers from depression and has a history of bad cycles.
  • He doesn't have a regular job right now.
  • He's registered for classes for the fall semester, but still has paperwork he needs completed to get his tuition paid by the deadline.
  • He has some health problems that do need addressing.
  • He doesn't have glasses and has been using the same contacts for almost a year (they're meant for 30 days).
  • He has no transportation and remains at home most of the time, which doesn't help his depression.

Of course, since I'm not there I'm going by what he says. It could be a bit different, but I'll base my tips on what I've been told.

Prioritizing Goals and Finances

It's hard to deal with several issues at once, so my first piece of advice is to come up with a specific to-do plan.

Immediate Goals

Communicate with others. I think this is key. He has to be honest with his circle of loved ones and tell them his needs. I know that depression can make this extremely difficult, but it is key. 

Reach out and use available resources. As far as resources to tap into, I would suggest organizations like NAMI and local city/county resources. If he's having trouble getting these calls made, maybe friends can help out.

Short Term Goals

  • Get healthy. My first priority is taking care of yourself physically and mentally. Since he has health insurance, I believe that he should take advantage of his coverage. I believe this is one case of asking friends and family for monetary help. Co-pays are much lower than paying for visits completely out of pocket, so I strongly believe others can step in and help with that.

I want to include a list of resources for those dealing with mental illness and their support network to help them find the appropriate organization.

Even if he can't get it done in time for the fall, at least it's something he can look forward to in the spring semester.

Keeping it simple is key. If he can only take care of one, getting healthy is it – hands down.

Building on the Foundation

Once he's able to take care of the immediate needs, he is in a good spot healthwise, and things have somewhat stabilized, then he can be in a better position to take care of important goals.

  • Finding a part time job/income source. I realize it can be hard to find a job with the economy, but I do believe it's possible to get an income stream started, even if it's a couple hundred dollars a month. He has the skills to work a couple of types of jobs and maybe he can do work on the side.
  • Have a financial system in place. He needs to get the most basic of budgets set up. I wouldn't suggest anything remotely complicated. A good low key yet effective one is the 50/20/30 budget.

From there, he can reevaluate his goals for the long term and build a list from there.

Thoughts on Limiting Help

We offered our help and hopefully, it can alleviate some of the problems he's having. I’d love to get your take – what would you suggest in this situation? Do you know of any other resources for those who suffer from mental illness.

About Elle Martinez

Elle Martinez helps families at Couple Money achieve financial freedom by sharing tips for reducing debt, increase income, and building net worth. Learn how to live on one income and have fun with the second..

6 comments add your comment

  1. I too cycle in and out of depression, and at times my family members have had to boot me outside (to go for a walk, cut the grass, etc.) despite my protests. It helps immensely. So does sticking to a regular schedule of nutritious meals and sleep. For me, a REGULAR routine of outdoor exercise + quality food + sleep is absolutely necessary for getting depression under control. Without that stability, it’s so hard to focus on accomplishing anything else.

    I agree with asking family and friends for financial help — at least enough to get a decent pair of glasses and maybe a few other short-term necessities (bus pass, haircut, etc.) . The family/friends may also be able to help with wrapping up the process of applying to school. Even if they are not in the same geographic area, they could at minimum help to break the tasks down into a series of manageable steps.

    Finally I would recommend taking the “tiny steps” approach to all of the other challenges, from accessing health care to finding work to setting a budget. An example of a tiny step might be to call a physician’s office to check their hours. That might be all that he can manage for that day. The next day he might call back and ask if they are accepting new patients. The point is to do something, anything, to keep going. Momentum is critical.

    Here’s a great kids’ book that illustrates the points about momentum and little steps. The teacher is a great role model for anyone trying to help someone who is struggling with apathy or depression. I wish everyone would read it!

  2. I’ve been in those situations before. I suffer from depression and it can interfere with everything he’s working for (school and health). He should try several forms of therapy to try to combat the episodes he may have. As for the contacts, NOT SAFE! Places like Walgreens and CVS have prescription strength glasses for cheap. Have him find the closest thing to clear as possible.

    • @Marianne: Thanks for sharing those tips on breaking steps down into what is doable. Everyone is different and patience is needed.

      @20 and Engaged: He doesn’t feel like his depression is an issue to be addressed, but after speaking with him for a bit it seemed as if he’s willing to get help. I hope he takes us up on our offer.

      @Sam: I know some resources for those suffering with mental illness and I hope others share what they know.

  3. Sounds rough. I would spend some time reading about the serious suffering of others to help put things into perspective. There’s always someone who has it worse than us.