UK charities say debtors with mental health problems need ‘breathing space’

Created February 20th, 2018 by Alex Watts

Up to 23,000 people were being pursued for debts while in hospital for mental health problems last year, according to charity research.

As reported by the Financial Times, thousands of people with mental health issues are in debt and many face pressure from creditors that increases their distress and increases the risk of suicide.

Debt-respite scheme

Now, the Money and Mental Health Policy Institute (MMHPI) and other charities are calling for a new debt-respite scheme to include those people suffering a mental health crisis.

The government is considering whether to allow individuals in problem debt up to six weeks’ grace from interest, charges and enforcement action by debt collectors if they seek help and financial advice.

And charities want the breathing space scheme extended to anyone accessing psychiatric in-patient care or the care of a Crisis Resolution Team, campaigning for the change under #RecoverySpace.

MMHPI founder Martin Lewis said: “It’s time to stop people in mental health crisis being hassled over debt, which risks making recovery harder and means they’ll be even less likely to repay creditors in future.

“I have long campaigned for breathing space for those in crisis debt – but for those having a short period of acute mental illness; suffering panic attacks, unable to open post, call the bank, or even think coherently – going to a debt counsellor in order to call a halt to things is just impossible.”

Pursued for debt while in hospital

The research found instances of people who received court summons for debt while they were in hospital for mental health treatment, and others who attempted suicide after being pursued by bailiffs.

According to Citizens Advice, eight out of 10 NHS mental health practitioners treating anxiety and depression also deal with their patients’ non-health issues, including debt and money problems.

Research has also revealed clear links between mental health and financial trouble, with 72% of people saying that their mental health problems have made their financial situation worse and 92% noting that they find it harder to make financial decisions when struggling with their mental health.

Talk to someone

If you’re struggling with your mental health, don’t suffer in silence. Talk to someone who can help.

Samaritans (116 123) operates a 24-hour service available every day of the year. If you prefer to write down how you’re feeling, or if you’re worried about being overheard on the phone, you can email Samaritans at [email protected].

Mind promotes the views and needs of people with mental health problems. You can phone them on 0300 123 3393, Monday to Friday, 9am-6pm.

Campaign Against Living Miserably (CALM) is an excellent resource for young men who are feeling unhappy. As well as their website, CALM also has a helpline (0800 58 58 58).

For a full list of mental health helplines, visit the NHS website.

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