Health professionals have long believed that there are strong links between being in debt and having, or developing, mental health problems. It’s easy to see how a person who can no longer cope financially with their debts can become worried, anxious and depressed about their financial problems.
Feelings of guilt and hopelessness are also common. And in extreme cases, debt problems have even led to people committing suicide, as they feel so overwhelmed by their money worries that they just can’t see any other way out.
‘Mental health problems amongst clients are something that every debt adviser in the UK will be familiar with,’ says Andy Gorton, Managing Director of bankruptcy advice firm, Bankruptcy Clinic. ‘It’s a sad fact that many people put off seeking help with their debts for as long as they can, often because they’re feeling embarrassed or they’re in denial. By the time they finally ask for help, the problem may have escalated out of control – both financially and in terms of the toll it’s taken on the individual’s mental health.’
So what are the facts?
Whilst being in debt is acknowledged as a cause of mental health problems, the reverse can also be true. According to the Royal College of Psychiatrists, one in two adults with debts has a mental health problem, whilst one in four people with a mental health condition also have money problems.
Research carried out by the University of Southampton last year bears out these figures. In a review of 52 separate studies covering 34,000 participants, this research also revealed that just 9% of people with debt problems don’t have mental health issues. The range of problems included in the study included depression, drug addiction, neurotic and psychotic disorders, alcoholism and suicide.
Study researcher, Dr. Thomas Richardson, explains: ‘It might be that debt leads to worse mental health due to the stress it causes. It may also be that those with mental health problems are more prone to debt because of other factors, such as erratic employment. Equally, it might be that the relationship works both ways.’
Spotting the warning signs
Many debt help organisations now train their staff to spot the danger signs of mental illness in their clients. One of these is debt charity, StepChange, which uses an online counselling tool to help identify clients suffering from anxiety and depression. In 2013, StepChange revealed that it speaks to around 5,000 clients a month who are struggling with both financial and mental health problems. Of these, 60% were identified as severely anxious or depressed, 27% as moderately so and 13% as having mild depression or anxiety.
‘Whilst we’re not qualified to offer counselling or other help on mental health matters, it’s important to know when someone’s having issues that go beyond the financial,’ says Andy Gorton. ‘At both Bankruptcy Clinic and our partner debt management firm, MoneySolve Ltd, our debt advisers have information and contact details on hand for organisations that can offer professional help and counselling to those who need it.’
Prevention is better than cure
Debt problems and mental health issues don’t have to go hand in hand. Where there’s no pre-existing condition, you can avoid developing problems in the future by taking action to deal with your debts as soon as possible. Bankruptcy Clinic will help you make the right decisions, based on your individual circumstances and the amount and type of your debts.
Adds Andy: ‘Don’t let feelings of guilt or embarrassment stop you asking for help. People from all backgrounds and all walks of life experience debt problems, so you’re certainly not alone. Our trained advisers are here to listen and help, not to pass judgement.’
Let Bankruptcy Clinic help
Bankruptcy Clinic offers a range of debt solutions which can be tailored to meet your needs and circumstances. As our name suggests, these include bankruptcy which may be an option if you have little disposable income and few or no assets.
We also offer other forms of personal insolvency – Individual Voluntary Arrangements (IVAs), or Trust Deeds if you live in Scotland, and Debt Relief Orders (DROs). And if things aren’t so bad after all, you may qualify for a Debt Management Plan (DMP), an informal agreement to pay back your creditors as much as you can afford each month.
Explore your options – contact us today
There’s nothing to lose by asking Bankruptcy Clinic for advice. It’s free to call from a landline on 0808 168 7389, or you can call 01625 462 770 from a mobile.
Or if you prefer, you can complete our online enquiry form with your details and one of our friendly advisers will call you back to talk things through.