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The Royal College of Psychiatrists Improving the lives of people with mental illness

New report shows half of adults in debt may have a mental health problem

Embargoed until 08 October 2009

New research published today states that one in two British adults in debt may also have a mental health problem.

The literature review which has been endorsed by Stephen Fry and Alastair Campbell has been published by The Royal College of Psychiatrists and Rethink, funded by the Money Advice Trust and the Finance & Leasing Association.

Professor Dinesh Bhugra, President of the Royal College of Psychiatrists, said: “The economic downturn will impact on the UK's mental health. All political action at this time is important. Research and clinical experience tells us that the more debts people have, the more likely they are to have a mental health problem. Health and social care professionals are well placed to help their patients during these difficult times.”

Joanna Elson, chief executive of the Money Advice Trust, said: “Half of adults in debt may have a mental health problem. The findings of today’s report illustrates the vital role the advice sector has in ensuring that vulnerable clients are able to access appropriate sources of advice and support."            

Stephen Sklaroff, Director General of the Finance & Leasing Association, said: “One in four adults with a mental illness also report having unmanageable debt. Our Lending Code requires finance companies to take this into consideration when dealing with their customers. This is an important feature of responsible lending. We hope that the recommendations included in today’s report will encourage other business sectors to follow our best practice example when working with people who may have mental health problems.”

Adam has bipolar disorder and has spoken about his experiences of debt and mental health. "Through my experience of the health care services I think it’s crucial that health care professionals are able to help get to underlying debt problems. If I had been correctly diagnosed when I first made contact with my GP and referred to a free independent debt advice charity, I would have found the situation much easier to cope with. Having access to independent free advice would have alleviated my fears of bailiffs and the situation could have been resolved much earlier."

Paul Corry, director of public affairs at the mental health charity Rethink, said: “People with mental health problems sometimes have particular issues with money as a result of their illness. Those who are working may lose their jobs suddenly if they become unwell, while others who live on state benefits may not have the funds available to cover one off costs. A quarter of people who have a mental illness will be in debt. Financial difficulties can trigger or exacerbate mental illness and tough economic climates tend to result in increased demand for mental health services. During the current recession, Rethink has seen an increase in referrals to its services due to debt and financial matters. If someone is slipping into debt they should seek help as soon as possible. We have a debt specialist on hand to provide information via Rethink’s advice line.”

Strategist and communications expert Alastair Campbell, Mind champion of the year, has supported the research: "One in four of us will directly experience mental illness during our lifetime. For many, those problems are exacerbated by financial problems, sometimes in part caused by the mental health problems. It cannot be entirely a coincidence that the word depression has an economic as well as a health meaning. According to Credit Action, personal debt in the UK stands at £1,457bn. This report emphasizes the need for all the relevant agencies to work together to ensure that both mental health and financial difficulties are identified so appropriate support can be provided."

Comedian and writer Stephen Fry has also applauded the research: “My own bipolar condition has caused me to go on many giddy spending sprees so I have first-hand experience of the difficulties of debt brought on by poor mental health. I fully support the new research in this area and the recommendations which have been made to both the health care and the financial services sectors. An understanding of the relationship between mental health and unmanageable debt should ensure that appropriate advice and support is provided to those who need it."


For further information, please contact:
Kathy Oxtoby or Deborah Hart in the Communications Department.

Telephone: 0203 701 2544 or 0203 701 2538

 

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