Living below the breadline with winter looming

What the cost of living increase means to one York person with long term mental health conditions

Man with head in his hands

Two Ridings recently put out a request to the local community groups we support to ask how the cost of living was impacting the local people they support. We wanted to get a feel ‘on the ground’ for what is happening right here in Yorkshire to ensure we had first hand knowledge of what local people are actually experiencing.

At the time of writing there was very little concrete support being offered to individuals, charities, businesses or other organisations, unlike at this point during the Covid pandemic when grants, furlough and funding were rolling out pretty quickly.

We got a half a dozen responses from our request confirming our fears that people were already  suffering and very apprehensive, but what we didn’t expect was some very personal stories shared with us.

Johny was one person who responded.

Johny lives in York and has a long term mental health condition. He was happy to share his story to try and enable support for other people in a similar position as him.

It is a hard read; here is what he told us:

“It’s not just people with existing and long term severe mental health problems that are impacted by the energy cost rises and food cost rises, but I wanted to just touch upon the reality of the increases for me personally and on behalf of people in the community with similar circumstances that I’ve chatted with recently.

I’m terrified of the impending increases, and it’s already heavily impacted my mental health, which I might add is not anywhere near great on a ‘good day’.

The media haven’t mentioned or considered the impact on people with poor mental health and the more I listen to Radio Four’s commentary on the cost of living crisis, the more I fear for my survival.

A bit dramatic you may think?

Well not really given my existing mental health conditions, which I don’t mind sharing at this stage because it might trigger some support for the people I’m concerned for in this piece.

I currently have severe depression and anxiety with psychotic features along with complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and suicidal thoughts and feelings.

Let’s just pause and think about what that’s like to manage day to day with the old pressures of daily life before the cost-of-living crisis even presented itself.

I am looking at the prospect of spending winter alone again in my council flat with no heating because I won’t be able to have it on unless the temperature is below zero, which is pretty miserable.

I don’t have carpets in my flat so it’s chilly at the best of times in autumn and winter anyway, because I haven’t been able to afford carpets  – ever – on my budget.

I am anxious already and contemplating reducing further my already-restricted budget to live on has already impacted on my very low mood and heightened my anxiety to unbearable levels once again, just with the amount of worry I’m carrying around each day now.

The things that I have already had to change to try and prepare to meet the costs of the increased energy prices is listed below.

This list is enough on its own to make me want to just ‘give up’. I think you can tell what I’m referring to in very real terms.

This feels for me at the very least like another breakdown is already looming and far worse realistically awaits me.

So far I have:

Reduced bathing and loss of mental health support

I’m meant to have two baths a day as part of my mental health ‘keep well’ strategy formulated in my mental health support which has now stopped owing to lack of resources.  

Restricted spend on food

Cooking less often has already become a thing. My diet has already changed to making meals that don’t require me to use the oven and hob, or if I do it’s only once a week for a ‘proper meal’ to ensure I’m getting some nutrition from my food as this directly impacts my mental health.

Reduced laundry

Laundry is already only being done two washes a week on the short wash programme which for certain items isn’t really sufficient enough to clean them properly.

Left lights off

Lights are only being used as a necessity which I might point out is going to be more in winter, so reading and writing and other aspects of pleasure or leisure that help manage my mental health and keep me relatively well will be further reduced and are going to become less available very soon as the light fades with the seasonal changes.

Ended any home comforts and reduced human contact

Any home comforts or treats have stopped, like grabbing a coffee with another human being as I’m trying to put away what spare money I can gather to prepare for September and October increase in energy costs.

It’s actually really quite distressing just writing this to be honest and I’m genuinely very concerned of where this cost of living increase crisis will take me.

I am already in crisis with it all. And I’m just one of many in the community already experiencing increased poor mental health as a direct result of the cost of living crisis with no mental health support available to me to help manage this extremely anxious of times.

I am only really scratching the surface of what the cost of living crisis means to me, I just hope it will help encourage further support for people living with poor mental health conditions.”


If you want to support people like Johny, please donate to the North and East Yorkshire Cost of Living Crisis Fund

We are planning to raise half a million pounds as quickly as possible so that we can support the people and organisations most affected.

Give whatever you can.

* The image used to depict this story is a stock image and not a picture of Johny