Money - a dirty word?

Some people in British society think it's a dirty word and shouldn't be discussed openly in public. But when you have a relative with a mental illness such as bipolar or schizophrenia, one way or another you have to face the issue head-on.

Money and mental health: a relatives experience

Bipolar overspending

Mary shares her story of her daughter’s bipolar-related money troubles. Unfortunately a very common symptom of these conditions can be delusional thoughts and excessive spending. My daughter thought she had won the lottery when she became unwell and immediately starting bidding for things on eBay; a new car for her sister and new clothes for her brothers. Unfortunately she won the bid on a very pricey golden Rolls Royce and my husband had to speak to a very irate seller to explain that she didn't have the money and had made the bid when she was unwell.

Months later we were glad to discover she had been banned from eBay and were relieved that this wasn't likely to happen again.

When someone is in a psychotic state their reality is most likely to be very different to others. If they believe they have won a bet on the football, nothing you can say based on any amount of rationalism will make them change their fixed belief. Their thinking is a condition of their illness. Imagine then how distressing it is when someone who thinks they have won millions of pounds actually starts trying to spend it all? Or how hard it may be to stop them spending if you're their best friend or their nearest relative?

Often a symptom of someone becoming unwell can be reckless behaviour how to assess this can be a real challenge. After our daughter's first episode of mania and subsequent hospitalisations, we were really please when she made some online orders for new clothes, had put on some weight due to her medication, and we hoped this indicated her confidence was slowly coming back. She enjoyed trying them on and showing us her new purchases. For a few weeks we were delighted.

The truth of the matter came to light after a busy week at work when I popped into her room to find literally hundreds of boxes and packaging for orders that she's been making and receiving whilst my husband and I were out at work. We were horrified to see how much money she had spent. Worse still, we realised this was a sign she was starting to become unwell again.

Every carer I know has to spend vast amounts of time, and often their own money, sorting out the financial problems of the person they're caring for.

Mary kindly shared her story with researchers from Lancaster University who are currently running the REACT study for relatives and close friends of people with bipolar and psychosis.

The REACT online toolkit is packed with information for relatives and close friends who are supporting someone with bipolar or psychosis. The toolkit includes information about symptoms, treatments, how to get the best from services, how to manage difficult situations and how relatives can take care of themselves and reduce their stress levels. The toolkit has a chat room for friends and relatives to share stories and give each other support, along with a direct messaging service manned by experienced relatives and friends.  

A Resource Directory also lists all currently available national support, including information and links on a range of issues relating to mental health plus a local directory to help you find support and information in your area.

The REACT research study tests whether the toolkit helps to reduce distress and increase wellbeing for relatives and friends. People signing up for the trial will be randomly allocated to receive either the Resource Directory or the Toolkit. They will  be asked to fill in some questionnaires about their health and wellbeing, and also receive an Amazon voucher as a thank you for their time

For more information or to sign up, please visit