New research from the Money and Mental Health Policy Institute warns that over 100,000 people in debt attempt suicide each year in England (Money and Mental Health Policy Institute, 2019). Whilst there are a variety of things which impact on a person feeling suicidal (and we will cover these in future posts) debt is often a contributing factor. A recent research study found that suicide is considered by almost 50% of people struggling with debt in the UK (Debt Support Trust, 2019) . Often the burden of debt can become too much and it’s thought that the only way out is to die by suicide.
I asked on a money advice forum for examples of individuals ‘rock bottom’ moment. There were many replies and themes of shame, guilt, feeling trapped and hopeless ran through the majority. One response from a young woman names Jessica* stood out for two reasons. Firstly, her honesty and secondly how although her story was deeply personal, it seemed to ring true to so many. Jessica said;
“I had written down all my minimums (debt payments) and budget for the month. There was nothing else I could cut and the last penalty charge pushed me over the edge. I couldn’t make the budget work. I couldn’t make my life work. I couldn’t provide for my family. I felt like a failure and knew I wouldn’t be able to keep hiding my debt.
I sat at my desk feeling numb and typed into google ‘what happens to credit card debt when someone dies?’, I couldn’t even make myself read the search results. I had already decided that taking myself out of the picture would be the best way to provide for my family.”
Jess, thankfully didn’t act on this. While planning her suicide she found a debt management plan and support group that worked for her. She is now happy and healthy and enjoying life with her two children!
But what about those who haven’t found support?
More often than not, debt is a private matter. If you or someone you know is struggling with debt and/or mental health, it might feel like it – but, you are not alone. There are lots of organisations and individuals who want to help. Here are some to get you started – please feel free to post other idea’s in the comments section;
- Samaritans – www.samaritans.org
- Citizens Advice – www.citizensadvice.org.uk
- Debt Advice Foundation – www.debtadvicefoundation.org
- Debt Support Trust – www.debtsupporttrust.org.uk/
- National Debtline – www.mymoneysteps.org
- Stepchange – www.stepchange.org
- Money and Mental Health – www.moneyandmentalhealth.org/
- Martin Lewis: Money Saving Expert – www.moneysavingexpert.com/
Today, on ‘World Suicide Prevention Day’ I also wanted to highlight a campaign I have recently discovered. There are normally a wide range of issues which contribute to someone becoming suicidal, but one factor which can make people feel there is no way out is the letters they receive from creditors (Money and Mental Health, 2019). Many lenders are forced by law to use threatening and intimidating language in their debt letters (Martin Lewis, 2019). This adds to the feelings of fear, shame and hopelessness that people feel.
These letters are often intimidating, written in complex language and can feature threats of court action right at the top. Receiving these letters from multiple lenders on a daily basis can leave people feeling unable to see a solution to their situation.
The content and language of these letters are prescribed by the Consumer Credit Act, which was introduced nearly 45 years ago. Money and Mental Health are calling on the Government to update this out-of-date legislation, by creating new rules requiring creditors to use easy-to-understand language in letters, and to signpost people to sources of support for their debt.
Not only will that help more people deal with debt problems, it will save lives.
To sign the petition, please click here – Stop the debt threats petition.
*Name changed to protect anonymity. Permission has been obtained for all personal examples in this post.