Friday, 20 September 2013

Debt & Mental Health Seminar

I recently spoke at a debt and mental health seminar in Wigan. A disturbingly high number of professionals dealing with people facing overwhelming debt are failing to recognise that they are often 'at the end of their tether' and may even be suicidal.

Organised by the Campaign for Awareness of Mental Illness Among Debtors (CAMIAD), I outlined that money issues are a growing problem across the country with increasing numbers of people at all levels of society getting sucked into a spiral of debt.

Anyone, regardless of their social background, was at risk of running into debt and frequently the problems were compounded by the fact that victims refused to admit that they had a problem, not even to close members of their own family. The fact that these problems are so often hidden makes them much worse.

Conversely, where people in serious debt spoke to appropriate professionals trained in the recognition of mental health problems and who knew how to signpost them on for counselling or treatment, both money and lives can be saved.

CAMIAD was making a major contribution to reducing the levels of stress experienced by debtors – and the number of debt-related suicides. The one-day event at the Wigan Investment Centre was hosted by  Donna Cartmel, a director with insolvency practitioners, Lawson Fox of Bolton.

She said, “It is often difficult for us as professionals to recognise when one of our clients is suffering from a degree of mental illness or when one of our clients is displaying tell-tale signs of being suicidal, because of debt. It is no surprise in the current economic climate that suicide rates are so high.  The causes of mental illness are varied, as are the factors leading to debt, and we as professionals who face people in debt, need to be sympathetic of both.
Nigel Crompton, a senior mental health nurse and Head of Service Development at Cheshire & Wirral Partnership NHS Foundation Trust said, “Suicide is often the elephant in the room and professionals, who don’t have training in such matters, are often wary about raising the issue with debtors. Our experience has shown, however, that most people will experience a great sense of relief if they are feeling suicidal and are asked about it in the right way."

"With some specific mental conditions, notably bi-polar affective disorder, getting into debt was a recognised feature of the condition’s profile. Sufferers are known to go on extravagant spending sprees running up massive credit card bills,” he added.

The nationwide CAMIAD programme is aimed at any professional who might have contact with debtors and this includes insolvency practitioners, accountants, solicitors, debt management advisers, bankers, college and university lecturers, social and welfare workers and even doctors.

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