The real cost of debt problems on mental health
Posted Wednesday 16 March 2011
Over the last month, I have been travelling to local Mind associations around England and Wales to meet people who have experienced problems with both debt and their mental health. It’s clear from the people I’ve spoken to that these two issues can combine to devastating effect. What I found even more striking was the resilience of the people who have found themselves in these difficult circumstances. Many of them still face significant debts and continue to experience problems with their mental health, but they were all resolved to trying to improve their situation.
Mind has been campaigning on issues relating to debt and mental health over the last three years. The campaign began in 2008 with an extensive survey and a set of focus groups, research which led to our report on the mental strain caused by money probelms, In the red. On the back of this report we have been calling for:
- a better understanding of mental health issues and improved services from creditors, such as banks and credit card companies, through our work with the Royal College of Psychiatrists;
- better regulation of bailiffs to ensure that their practice is not detrimental to the mental health of the people they deal with;
- improved advice and support services for people with experience of mental distress;
- health and social care professionals to provide better support to users of mental health services who are in debt.
This work has had a real impact and we now feel that there is far greater awareness of the complex relationship between mental health and debt and what can be done to help people in this situation.
The last three years have been very difficult for many people financially and this inevitably has consequences for people’s mental health. For us to continue to push for the type of reforms described above, we need to know exactly what the impact of this tough period has been in terms of people’s debt and mental health.
That is why we are undertaking some new research into these issues with a fresh round of focus groups and a new survey.
So far people involved in the research have offered valuable insights into how they had got into debt; what impact this had on their lives; how this had affected their mental; and what they had done to try and sort out their problems. This information will help us to understand people’s very personal experiences of these issues and produce a new report and new resources to help people in these types of circumstances.
But we also need as many people as possible, with experience of debt and mental health problems, to fill in the survey to ensure that we have as strong evidence as possible so that we can continue to push for better treatment of people in this situation and more availability of support and advice.
Tom Pollard, Mind Policy and Campaigns Officer
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