The impact on our mental health of the rising cost of living and how My Love Your Love can help

For our international readers, just to let you know that this blog is focused on Australia’s economic situation and psychology costs. But we imagine that in other countries, communities are facing similar issues. We’d love to hear from you about the state of mental health and specifically couples therapy in your country. Drop us a line at [email protected] or simply reply to this email. 

It is impossible not to notice the rise of the cost of living these days. Whether it’s the price of vegetables in the supermarkets, petrol at the pump, meals in a restaurant or going to the movies, costs seem to be only going up. Additionally, with the RBA continually hiking interest rates (8 times since May 2022) and with more on the horizon, most individuals, couples and families are feeling the pinch. This means more of us are trimming back on those “non-essential” items – take-away coffees, dinners out, manicures, gym memberships, seeing a psychologist… the list goes on. These reductions in items, activities and services that help us connect, relax or have fun, on top of the global financial pressure that none of us can ignore, can leave us stressed and our relationships strained. It is no surprise that financial pressure is a well documented cause of stress and anxiety. Financial difficulties can also result in poor lifestyle and health choices in all areas of life. So increasing living costs doesn’t just affect how stressed we feel about what we can and can’t afford, but it can lead to decisions that have a negative health impact on us, such as overworking, isolating or limiting social contact, and reducing physical activity. So the rise of the cost of living and associated financial stress means it’s more important than ever to look after our mental health.

Let’s just take a moment to look at the individual and the question of mental health and help here in Australia. As many of you have heard, the Australian Government has cut back the number of medicare rebates from 20 to 10 sessions per year in 2023 (It’s important to note that the number of rebates increased from 10 to 20 with the Covid-19 pandemic and everything it brought with it). Yet 10 sessions with a psychologist is not clinically indicated for most presentations, rather many of us need a whole lot more. In addition, even with a medicare rebate the median gap that most Australians paid to see a psychologist was $90 in 2022 according to the Sydney Morning Herald. So you get it, it’s expensive to seek out individual psychological support. 

But what about Couples Therapy? Well the situation gets even more concerning here as there is almost no help for couples accessing therapy. In Australia we have no medicare rebates for couples. To see a couples therapist you will be out of pocket about $220 – $300 a session. And to see any real change you will need to attend couples therapy every week or at least fortnightly for some time. Some private health insurance will offer cover for couples therapy, but again you need to be able to afford the cover in the first place. 

You could be asking, why would I see a couples therapist when I can at least get some money back seeing a psychologist on my own? Well, there is evidence that suggests people who have a good relationship have more positive mental health and lower rates of stress and depression. However, people in unhappy relationships have worse mental health than single people. So the state of our relationship is predictive of our own mental health. Working on your relationship can actually improve your own mental health difficulties such as low mood and stress. Positive relationships also have a significant positive effect on the mental health of entire families, children included. While having a negative relationship with our partner can negatively impact the mental health of our children. Therefore, relationships are a measure of happiness in life and so having healthy relationships is essential. This also means that many mental health and general issues we face, are at the core, interpersonally-based difficulties that are either caused or worsened by negative interpersonal dynamics.

So if our relationship with our partner could do with a little tender care or a complete overhaul, we are back at the step of perhaps needing couples therapy but struggling to find the spare cash to pay for it. Well here is where My Love Your Love can help. Shahn and I specifically created a couples therapy app to allow ALL couples to access evidence-based and easy to use activities and interventions to improve relationships. Our mission is to make quality couples therapy available to all, no matter what your socioeconomic situation is. The combined cost of our app (on a yearly subscription) is $14.99 a month. That is $7.49 per partner. You could use the app everyday for a year for this cost, whereas accessing traditional couples therapy approximately once a week for a year would put you out of pocket at least $10k. Another benefit to using the My Love Your Love app is that there are no waiting times to get started and you can start improving your relationship from the comfort of your own home. During these unstable economic times, let’s prioritise what matters most – our relationships. It is a worthy investment for ourselves and our loved ones. 

Helen Robertson

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