Spending money in a situation of mental health conditions with the True Link Visa® Prepaid Card
Will is a 31-year-old registered nurse living in the Central Valley of California with his long-time roommate Brendan. In his early 20s, Will was diagnosed with Bipolar II – a condition characterized by alternating episodes of depression and hypomania (a less severe version of manic episodes experienced by people with Bipolar I*).
With medication and therapy, Will manages his symptoms and mood swings pretty well. He works as a nurse at the local ICU, regularly joins friends for pick-up soccer games, and has recently started dating someone.
But from time to time, Will still experiences episodes of hypomania. In these periods, he feels like anything is possible and luck is on his side. For Will, these episodes are characterized by an exaggerated sense of well-being and self-confidence – feelings that can compel him to go on a spending spree or make the hour-long drive to the nearest casino.
Putting the brakes on gambling
After a weekend where he lost $1,200 at the Blackjack table and couldn’t pay his half of the rent, Will realized he needed a new approach to protecting his money. He talked the situation through with Brendan and decided setting up a True Link Visa® Prepaid Card was a good path forward.
Nine weeks out of ten, Will doesn’t have any problem managing his money and spending responsibly, so the goal is to have as few restrictions as possible. But on that hard-to-predict tenth week, Will needs guardrails that keep him from buying a round of drinks for everyone at the bar or trying his luck at a Blackjack table that has a $25 minimum.
The primary concern during these episodes is gambling. Will has explored self-exclusion, but the risk of getting arrested or being charged with trespassing felt like an extreme consequence when he only gambles during periods of hypomania. And on those days when he’s feeling like James Bond, Will isn’t sure if the threat of jail time will really slow him down.
But if he does end up at a casino, he needs to avoid spending his hard-earned money, and his roommate needs to know what’s going on. So, the first step Will and Brendan take is to block all casinos and gambling. This takes just one click in the True Link Spending Monitor.
Texts on concerning transactions
The second thing Will and his roommate talked through is how Brendan can know when Will might be experiencing a hypomanic episode. Brendan doesn't mind receiving extra text messages about how Will is using the True Link Visa Card, but neither of them wants Brendan to get a text every time Will buys a bottle of water or goes through the drive-through.
What they agreed on is three types of alerts. The first happens if Will tries to use the Visa card at a casino. Per the Spending Monitor setting above, the transaction will be blocked, and Brendan will receive a text about the attempt so he can reach out.
The next alert they set up is around big spending. If Will makes a purchase over $200, Brendan will receive a text. There’s a chance it’s nothing to worry about – a flight home for the holidays or new tires for his car, but if Will is paying for expensive meals, booking high-end hotel rooms, or picking up the tab for everyone’s drinks, it’s good for Brendan to look into what’s going on.
The final alert they set up is for ATM transactions. Will doesn’t use that much cash, so he typically takes out a couple hundred bucks every few weeks. If he’s withdrawing more than usual, it could be a sign to check in.
After Brendan receives an alert, they’ve agreed he’ll give Will a call to learn more about what’s going on. Will knows that if he blows off these calls, Brendan will temporarily shut off the Visa card which prevents any purchases from going through. When Brendan reaches out in these moments, Will might not be happy about his roommate bringing the fun to a close, but after things have settled, he’s grateful for the guardrails they’ve set up and his friend’s support.
In some ways the phone call might be more important than the financial protection. The intervention of someone who is aware of his condition and accepts him for who he is can help keep Will safe in other ways. And if the call leaves Brendan worried for his roommate’s wellbeing, he can reach out to Will’s psychiatrist for help.
Setting up the True Link Visa Card
- In the spending monitor tab, click block next to “gambling and casinos”.In the alerts tab,
- Click on alerts for spending, and type in a $200 limit. Also check the box for alerts on cash withdrawals, and blocked transactions. The default format for the alerts is by text to the helper / administrator’s cellphone.
Will doesn’t talk openly to most of his friends and coworkers about his bipolar disorder – he’s worried it might threaten his ability to keep his job or that people will judge him. Over the years, he’s developed a number of practices and skills to avoid triggering an episode: he tries to maintain a good sleep schedule, goes to therapy most weeks, and has an online support group he can lean on. He’s grateful to have mostly good days, but on those days when the symptoms of hypomania rear their head, the True Link Visa card – along with the help of his roommate – are an important source of support.