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He forced his boss to fire him

Brian is currently making $19 an hour or just a hair shy of $3,300 a month before taxes, on average. Asked how he feels living off of this meager amount, Brian sighed and replied, "Terrible."

It wasn’t always like this. Brian once made $50,000 a year at an architecture firm. He loved the job but left on his two-year anniversary because, as he put it, he "had issues." He struggles with a host of mental health issues: OCD, anxiety, ADHD, depression and borderline personality disorder. The complications of all that (he began to irrationally regard his co-workers with suspicion) caused him to quit out of the blue.

Or rather: He forced his boss to fire him, in part by not showing up for a month.

Herein lies a crucial point. Mental illness, especially in how it affects employment, is an issue to be taken seriously and treated with compassion. Brian’s job loss stemmed from agony, not a slacker attitude.

Indeed, Hammer expressed his sympathy and invited Brian to consider some clear, proactive steps to bolster his mental footing. He gently encouraged Brian to see a medical professional or sign up for an inexpensive health plan, but Brian deflected again and again. The therapists don't understand. They cost too much. And commuting to Dallas, where mental health help and better jobs might await, is too expensive and takes too much time.

“That makes no sense!” Hammer yelled. "You live at home so where's your bills?”

"That's a good question," Brian replied. It turns out that among other things, "I eat out all the time because I don't cook at home. I don't talk to my family. I stay in my room." Once again, Brain had something or someone to blame for his troubles. "The reason why I have my brain [problems] is because of my family and I'm stuck with them now."

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Fixing finances and treating mental health

If you know someone with mental health issues who’s also in financial trouble, it’s paramount to get your priorities in order. Financial clarity stems from clarity of thought and mental function. Taking care of mental health problems first — by seeing a therapist or getting on the right medication, for example — can provide a firm foundation for solving financial struggles.

Brian admitted to Hammer he needed help, but cited his dire money situation as evidence that he couldn’t afford to get it. But Hammer wasn’t buying it. Looking closer at the numbers, Hammer saw "a big pile of destructive insanity" that included a frivolous PlayStation bill for $89 a month that Brian was at a loss to explain.

“This conversation is hopeless,” Hammer shouted. He pounded the desk over and over as he found expense after expense for … “SNACKS! SNACKS! SNACKS! SNACKS!”

Pressed to explain, Brian confessed, "I don't want to live in this reality so I have to pay money to go live in another world that's better than what it is now."

"With that statement alone," Hammer lamented, “You need to see a mental health expert. Not me."

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About the Author

Lou Carlozo

Lou Carlozo

Freelance writer

Lou Carlozo is a freelance contributor to Moneywise.

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