‘I’m a mental health worker for doctors – money worry is causing them burnout’

With inflation at a 40-year high, the price of everything from energy bills and car fuel, to food and housing has surged this year. Now i is finding out how people across the UK are surviving the cost of living crisis.

This week we speak to Sanya Saleem, 26, who lives in north London and is a mental health adviser to trainee doctors.

Main monthly costs

Rent and bills: Around £1,400

Living essentials such as food: £600

Savings: £300

I am a mental health adviser to doctors in training. I work at a prestigious university, making sure our junior doctors can function well and progress with their studies with no detriment to their mental health. The pandemic put a lot of stress on them, and now we have the cost of living pressures to consider too. I help make sure we actually have enough doctors coming through the system.

I’ve definitely already noticed the cost of living pressures having more of an impact at work. We’re seeing a lot of doctors worry about rising costs, which is affecting their wellbeing and leading to burnout in some cases.

We haven’t even bounced back from the Covid-19 pandemic yet. The lockdowns were incredibly traumatic for lots of people in my industry, for all sorts of reasons. And now we’ve got the cost of living crisis on top. It just feels like people’s motivation is at an all-time low and people’s stress levels and anxiety through the roof.

I’ve always worked in mental health and have a lot of training and qualifications. I’ve just started a PHD in psychology, which will take me five years to complete on a part-time basis alongside my full-time job.

It’s definitely been the most challenging time in my career so far. And now with daylight savings ending, we will see an increase in depression and depressive episodes.

More on Features

For anyone feeling low, I would always recommend talking to family and friends if they feel like they can, while charities such as the Samaritans are incredible if you want to talk to someone beyond friends and family. Book an appointment with your GP. The longer you feel down, the harder it is to resolve so speak to whoever you can.

Personally, I am also finding the rising cost of living quite stressful. Salaries don’t stretch as far as they used to and food is getting more expensive, which means putting things back on the shelves when shopping because your money doesn’t stretch as far as it used to.

The current crisis keeps me up at night, and I know it does others too. For me, living alone and not having a family, the cost of living crisis means wondering whether I can afford a holiday and other treats. I need to replace my laptop, but I’m wondering whether to wait and buy one cheaper in the Boxing Day sales.

I don’t have a set budget each month. When I get paid, I aim to put around £300 aside for savings and around £600 to cover my living essentials. The savings are for emergencies and holidays but recently I’ve been dipping into it on a regular basis more than I’d like.

I pay £1,388 to rent a studio apartment in north London. All my bills, such as energy, water and council tax, are included in my rent. It’s part of a co-living development that has flats, a co-working space, a community kitchen, gym, cinema room, and restaurant.

I’ve been living here since March and I really like the idea that the rent and most of my bills are covered by a fixed price so I won’t have to worry about them rising too soon. I’m on a 12-month contract and I’m hoping to renew in March 2023 – as long as the price doesn’t increase too much!

Previously I was renting from a private landlord but it was awful – the flat was in an awful condition and the landlord didn’t do anything about it. I found my current flat at 3am on a Tuesday night because I couldn’t sleep out of worry from my previous living situation.

Now, everything is much nicer. It’s a really sociable place and I’ve made loads of friends living here. It works well for me because I only moved to London last summer, from my parents’ place in Wolverhampton, so it’s a great way to adapt to living in a new city.

My priorities over the coming year are to continue concentrating on my work and studies. And hopefully I’ll still be in this place next year, depending on what rent they charged me after my year’s contract is up. If it’s too high, I’ll have to move further out of London and commute in when needed – maybe two days a week.

The ultimate aim is to be an academic and to teach what I’m passionate about to other people. Obviously I’d love to own my own place one day but I can’t see that happening any time soon – certainly not if I carry on living in London anyway.


Recommended For You