THE rising cost of living is having a detrimental impact on mental health, with more people needing to reach out to Lifeline for support as they grapple with the challenges.
Lifeline Central West CEO Stephanie Robinson knows those challenges well, having heard of and seen personally the increases to groceries, electricity and fuel prices in particular.
People are feeling the pressure and as the prices have risen, so has the number of people utilising the mental health service's financial counsellors.
"We certainly have seen an uptick in people needing advice and guidance from our financial counsellors," Ms Robinson said.
"We're seeing a definite increase, which has always been there, but a real increase in what I would call the working poor. Very much people who might be two-income families, but they're both on quite low wages, which certainly have not kept up with the cost of living."
The increasing cost of living follows on from a pandemic that's not quite over, which took an enormous toll on Australians' mental health.
Ms Robinson said people are "incredibly fatigued after the challenges of the past few years" and are struggling to cope with the added financial pressures.
"Coming at a time when people were already struggling, psychologically, emotionally there was a level of distress. This is certainly having an even greater impact on those people," she said.
"We are seeing people that are really slipping below the poverty line and trying really hard to manage, but they're just not."
Ms Robinson has also heard stories of people going without the essentials because money is so tight. That includes medical treatment.
"A big fear of mine is that people stop going to health professionals," she said.
"I spoke to a fellow the other day. His thing was his vision and it was throwaway comment about 'I really need to go for an eye check, but I know they will say I need a different prescription'. He said 'I can't afford the glasses', and this is someone who is working.
"It's all these sorts of things placing additional stress on people which impacts their overall health, both physical and mental."
Ms Robinson said it was vital for people to reach out to services like Lifeline to get the support they need, urging them to do it before they hit rock bottom.
Financial counsellors in particular can help people find ways they can maximise their income by making changes within their household.
It can be simple things like buying cheaper brands of food, right through to switching energy providers or changing insurance policies to ensure they are getting the best deal.
Ms Robinson said there is no shame in asking for help.
"I think people who have never been in this position find it really difficult to reach out and I think that's certainly what the financial counsellors see, that people wait until they really have hit rock bottom before they do reach out or they're actually forced to because of threats from the bank or creditors," she said.
"There's actually no shame. It's actually an incredible strength to decide that I'm going to grab this and get the help and support I need to manage this so it doesn't become bigger than it needs to be."
For support, call Lifeline on 13 11 14.
Sign up for our newsletter to stay up to date.