The world has changed drastically in the last few months since COVID-19 was first declared a global pandemic requiring each individual’s immediate attention. This rare disastrous virus has resulted in a tragically large number of human lives being lost. As nations continue to implement necessary quarantines and social distancing practices to contain the pandemic, the biggest part of the world has been put in a great lockdown unlike anything experienced in our lifetimes.
Cities and regions around the world are in lockdown in an attempt to contain the spread of the deadly Corona virus. To prevent the COVID-19 pandemic, most countries have implemented unprecedentedly stringent restrictions, including lockdowns of cities and regions under which production activites thrive best, except for those essential to the survival of citizens. This has definitely left various economies of different countries in shatters and the propagation of the economic impact of these lockdowns will certainly require a joint effort for some sectors and nations to survive.
The magnitude and speed of collapse in economic activity has left many jobless and therefore penniless. According to the United Nations Labour agency, the rapidly intensifying economic effects of COVID-19 on the world of work are proving to be far worse than the 2008-2009 financial crisis, with cutbacks equivalent to nearly 200 million full-time workers expected in the next three months alone.
With an ever-increasing level of personal debt being reported, along with record numbers of bankruptcies and insolvencies, it’s no surprise to anyone that money is becoming a big problem for thousands if not millions of people around the world. Lockdown of cities and regions are apparently associated with substantial economic losses not just for nations and businesses but also for ordinary people.
Most of us would equate ‘money problems’ with ‘debt problems’, and indeed servicing high levels of debt is a major cause of worry and stress for those of us who’ve perhaps borrowed too heavily during this period in order to sustain our families with the basics of life like food and water or probably to keep our business afloat.
But there is another kind of money trouble that doesn’t receive quite as much publicity. It’s called “Financial Phobia”, and is a real clinical condition that causes untold problems for its victims. If you’ve ever experienced symptoms of financial phobia, you aren’t alone. Recent research has suggested that up to 20% of adults suffer from full-blown financial phobia, with nearly half of the population showing some signs of a milder version of the condition. With the current global economic situation, this condition is likely to increase to an all-time record high.
Sufferers of this illness find it extremely difficult to keep on top of their finances, as the prospect of doing simple things like opening bills causes them feelings of anxiety, nausea, and even in the worst cases full panic attacks. They will dislike checking their bank balances, will put off paying bills, and in extreme cases will avoid opening mail altogether and throw it away rather than deal with the contents.
So what causes this condition? One of the main triggers is a sense of finances being out of control, sometimes through debt, but also through having a bad experience with finance such as losing money in a bad investment, or as a result of following unsound financial advice. Victims of mis-selling of inappropriate products can lose trust in banks and by extension the whole realm of finance.
The irony is that by avoiding paying attention to their financial situation, sufferers will tend to make matters worse as they can’t pick up on problems early on. Missed payments, for example, can go from being a minor issue to a cause of legal action if they are ignored rather than tackled.
As their financial situation deteriorates, the sense of being out of control increases, leading to a vicious circle where other problems including full depression can arise. So is there a way out?
As with all genuine phobias, counselling may be required if the problem has got out of hand, along with professional financial help from debt advisors which is often available for free from charities.
However, people in the early stages of the condition can help stop the situation deteriorating by starting to get back on top of their finances, fighting their urges to ignore the problem, and starting to tackle any underlying causes such as debt.
It is on this background that I believe governments around the world ought to do more for their citizens if we are to come out of this stronger. There is a need to ease the financial impact from this pandemic for not just businesses and the corporate world but also for individuals struggling to survive.
Nations like Uganda have provided food relief for its citizens to help them cope with the difficult financial times. Just two days ago, the U.S House passed a $3 trillion Corona virus relief package that would include another round of stimulus payments of up to $1,200 per person. This came at a time when the global confirmed cases of COVID-19 were at 4.81 million people while the death toll stands at 319,000 people.
In light of all this, there is a need to unleash the voices of the scientists in our public health systems around the world so they can be heard and empower them to better serve us by providing them the support they require in terms of advanced medical infrastructure and funding .This is also a time for our leaders to reflect on their commitment to mental health and health in the general sense by providing better funding.
In the meantime, look out for one another and support those that may not be stable financially so that together we can defeat financial phobia.