The mental health crisis in America is a growing concern.
The average debt in america is a statistic that shows the average amount of debt for every American. It’s an interesting statistic to see how much people are spending on things they can’t afford.
Robert Crackles’ financial troubles came to a climax little over a year ago.
He recalls, “I was scurrying about, attempting to borrow more money to meet the approaching monthly installments.” ‘It got to the point where I was having an interview with a shady lending business in the middle of Bradford to obtain some cash.’
Following a layoff in 2009, Robert, 42, began borrowing money and owed lenders approximately £25,000. He owed a large portion of his debt to payday lending firms, which charged over 1,000 percent APR on repayments.
‘If you miss one payment, that’s it; you’re never going to get out of that hole,’ he adds, reflecting on the worst aspects of his financial problems. ‘I was on the verge of suicidality if I hadn’t sought treatment when I did. It was a nightmare.’
Robert’s tale isn’t one of a kind. Even before the epidemic, 8.3 million people in the UK were in issue debt, which meant they’d missed many months’ worth of invoices or credit obligations.
People in problem debt are more likely to suffer from mental health problems and are three times more likely to have considered suicide, according to the Money and Mental Health Policy Institute’s study, A Silent Killer.
Nikki Bond is a Senior Research Officer at the Money and Mental Health Policy Institute and one of the report’s authors from 2018. While there is seldom a single cause of suicide, she believes that financial problems may play a part.
‘There are a lot of connections there,’ Nikki says. ‘13 percent of individuals with financial problems have considered suicide, and 3% have tried suicide. We performed some math and came up with a number of 420,000 individuals in England in 2017 who had considered suicide because of their financial problems.’
The ‘double stigma’ associated with both financial and mental health issues may make it very difficult for individuals to seek assistance.
13 percent of individuals in debt have considered suicide, and 3% have tried suicide (picture courtesy of Getty Images/iStockphoto).
Only around 1 million of the UK’s 9 million over-indebted individuals seek and get guidance each year, despite estimates that between 650,000 and 2.9 million people might benefit from it.
‘You stay quiet about your financial problems, you don’t know how to get out, and you’re having suicide thoughts – and then you have that double stigma,’ Nikki adds. ‘It simply compounds itself, making it exponentially more hazardous.’
This is especially true for males, who have accounted for about three-quarters of all suicides since the mid-1990s.
‘A lot of what we unpicked was the notion that one person is or feels solely responsible for their family’s support,’ Nikki says. ‘For individuals in debt, the burden of this duty may be crushing.’
Robert, a double glazing fabricator, says he was afraid of upsetting his parents and other close family members if he confronted his financial issues, although knowing they were spiraling out of hand.
‘I didn’t want to confess that I had this issue to the people I cared about because I knew it would hurt them,’ he recalls. ‘It seemed simpler not to face it because I could scurry about and obtain another loan, and it felt like everything was OK for a few weeks.’
Robert claims that his increasing debt drove him to contemplate suicide (Picture: Robert Crackles)
The weight of Robert’s debt, on the other hand, eventually made his day-to-day activities feel useless.
‘You wake up every day thinking “I can’t do anything,” and that’s when suicidal ideas start to creep in,’ he adds. ‘You think to yourself, ‘It’ll be simpler to simply not be alive any longer.’
Robert realized he couldn’t ignore his financial troubles any longer when he went to a dubious Bradford lending business to beg for money.
He remembers the workplace seeming barren, as if they’d just moved in. ‘There were just three of them in the building,’ says the narrator. They appeared to take pleasure in having me jump through hoops and interrogating me about why I needed the money. Questions such, “Do you have a drug problem?” and “Do you have a gambling problem?” I always knew I needed assistance, but this has just confirmed it.’
Nearly a quarter of individuals who tried suicide in 2017 had a financial issue.
The epidemic, according to Mette Isaksen, Senior Research and Evidence Manager at the Samaritans, has further exacerbated the problem by increasing the number of calls volunteers get about financial problems.
‘In the year after the limitations started, we have helped 140,000 individuals who are concerned about their money or unemployment,’ she adds. ‘During the epidemic, it is obviously a factor impacting many populations.’
Men in their forties and fifties, in particular, find it difficult to express their financial concerns.
‘Volunteers informed us that males in their forties and fifties often expressed emotions of guilt and helplessness in the face of financial difficulties, as well as a desire to deal with these issues alone,’ she added.
Lorraine Taylor was 27 years old when she learned that her father had committed suicide. He was 48 years old and in serious debt after failing to pay his rent, vehicle loan, council tax, and utility bills on a regular basis.
‘He owed money for his council home rent, and he couldn’t see a way out,’ she explains. ‘It was about £3,000,’ says the narrator.
David, her father, was aware that the council intended to deport him from his house.
Lorraine’s father, David, committed suicide in 1994. (Picture: Lorraine Taylor)
‘He was going to be evicted either the day he died or the day after,’ Lorraine, now 54, says. ‘When I returned home, there was a large notice on the door stating that he had been evicted.’
She adds, ‘I was in shock for a long period.’ ‘I discovered that my father had been given assistance by the municipality to resolve his rent arrears, but he never showed up for the appointments.’ I was upset that he didn’t feel he could contact me for assistance since he must have felt humiliated and embarrassed.’
Housing issues, according to Mette, may raise the probability of suicide ideation.
‘Unmanageable debt may also lead to other suicide risk factors, such as home instability, and eviction has been linked to suicide,’ she adds.
Lorraine thinks that her father was aware that his housing obligations would be forgiven after his death, and that his family would not be responsible for repaying them.
‘ “I owe this amount of money for the rent, but my children won’t have to pay it,” he would have thought.
David had also broken up with Lorraine’s mother and was living alone as a consequence. Lorraine thinks he was suffering from loneliness and isolation, which contributed to the mental stress created by his indebtedness.
According to the A Silent Killer study, individuals with numerous money difficulties, such as David, are at a substantially greater risk of suicide than those with just one outstanding debt.
In 2017, just 1% of individuals with no debt or one issue debt tried suicide, while 5% of those with two, three, or more attempted suicide.
‘I could have certainly taken out a loan or placed it on my credit card, but I now believe that if I had done so, there would have been another debt, something else he hadn’t paid,’ Lorraine adds. ‘It seemed like I was stuck in a never-ending loop.’
People who have numerous money difficulties are more likely to commit suicide than those who just have one major debt. (Photo courtesy of Getty Images) )
Experts believe that in the 27 years after David’s death, assistance for people with financial and mental health issues has gradually improved.
‘I believe there is a greater understanding of the connection between mental health and financial issues,’ Nikki adds. ‘And this is especially true for males.
‘There is an understanding within mental health services that you should inquire about people’s money within treatment plans,’ she adds. ‘However, I believe that the frequency with which that is done while dealing with individuals in mental health crises may be varied.’
Lorraine thinks that, at the time of her father’s death, only a limited number of services – if any – were accessible to individuals in debt.
‘Back then, people didn’t even talk about their money,’ she adds. ‘For example, if you were declared bankrupt, it would have been reported in the local daily, and everyone would have known about it.’
The government’s Debt Respite Scheme (Breathing Space) went into effect in May of this year. People with issue debt may obtain legal protection from creditors for up to 60 days under the program.
Most enforcement actions and communication from creditors are halted, and most interest and charges on debts are frozen.
‘Those letters from creditors – the way they’re written, as well as the regularity with which they’re sent – can be very upsetting,’ says Nikki of the Money and Mental Health Policy Institute. ‘That has the potential to elicit suicidal thoughts.’
This includes ‘incomprehensible legalese, shouty capital letters, and threats of court action’ against people who haven’t paid their bills on time, according to her.
For individuals undergoing mental health crisis therapy, there is a second breathing gap that lasts for the length of the treatment, followed by another 30 days.
A therapist recommended that Robert contact the debt charity StepChange in his situation.
Robert received assistance from StepChange, a UK-based debt charity. (Photo courtesy of Robert Crackles)
‘I’d heard about them before, but I’d been burying my head in the sand,’ he confesses. ‘But then I spoke to the charity, and it was fantastic – the greatest thing I ever done,’ she says.
One thing that surprised Robert was how simple the procedure was.
‘You fill out an income and expense sheet, and then they make a recommendation,’ he explains.
‘All they need are your creditor’s reference numbers and contact information, and they’ll go to them and ask, “Can you afford to pay this each month?” They just split it between themselves after that. ‘It’s a piece of cake.’
Robert describes his emotions at finally receiving assistance as a “mixed bag.”
‘On the one hand, it felt good to be doing something productive,’ he adds. ‘On the other hand, seeing how terrible things had become was a genuine shock. The true relief came a few weeks later, when I learned that the payment arrangements had been approved by the lenders.’
Because half of StepChange’s customers have additional vulnerabilities – such as mental health disorders – on top of their financial problems, all of the charity’s advisers undergo mental health training.
‘It’s critical to us that people in debt feel they can get advice in a way that suits them,’ says StepChange’s Vulnerability Product Manager, Paula Searle. ‘We recognize that many people with mental health issues have difficulty with certain communication channels, so we offer online as well as telephone support.’
Robert was able to get back on track thanks to a payment plan (photo courtesy of Getty Images/Cultura RF).
Robert claims that confronting his financial problems has enabled him to totally transform his life.
He adds, ‘I’m in such a great place.’ ‘I’m ecstatic because I finally have some money to myself.’ I have a social life. I’m free to go out. I have a better job now. Just don’t procrastinate – take the plunge. When you start dealing with it, you’ll be amazed at how much better you feel.’
Robert also feels more comfortable speaking about his emotions with people around him after receiving assistance from the organization and his therapist.
‘If I have a problem, I’ll talk to my father, my employer, and my sister,’ he adds. ‘I’ve just discovered that you can’t keep things pent up forever. ‘Talk about it if you have an issue.’
Nikki also emphasizes the importance of reaching out.
Read more about mental health
‘Financial problems are resolvable, and when individuals are suicidal because of something that is completely resolvable, we need to make sure that they are encouraged to seek assistance as soon as possible,’ she adds.
With data indicating that almost 5.5 million people in the UK are behind on one or more household bills or personal credit commitments as a result of Covid-19 – and a quarter claiming that this has had a negative impact on their mental health – fighting the stigma has never been more critical.
‘The greatest advice I can offer anybody is to simply take that initial step,’ Robert says. ‘Because that’s the most difficult.’
If you’re having financial or mental health issues, call the Samaritans on 116 123 or email [email protected] At stepchange.org, you may also get free debt counseling and assistance.
Do you have a personal story to tell? [email protected] is the best way to get in contact.
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MORE: Everything you need to know about the Breathing Space debt-relief program
MORE: Money-saving tips based on psychology and basic lifestyle tweaks
MORE: A housewife committed herself while trying to pay off credit card debt.
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Frequently Asked Questions
How does being in debt affect your mental health?
Being in debt can have a negative effect on your mental health because it causes stress that may lead to depression, anxiety, or other psychological disorders.
How does student debt affect your mental health?
How does being in debt affect you?
It can cause a lot of stress. It can also be difficult to find the money you need for things like rent and food, which can lead to hunger and homelessness.
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