People with mental health problems are struggling with debt to the detriment of their conditions, Mind warned today in a report to launch its annual awareness week.
A survey of over 1800 people with mental health problems found they owed £3,250 on average on store and credit cards, and just over half (924) were in “problem debt” – defined as having fallen two or more consecutive payments behind with at least one bill during the past 12 months.
Over 90% of those in problem debt had experienced a deterioration in their mental health, while the survey also found that only a minority (37%) of this group disclosed their conditions to lenders and most of those who did faced negative attitudes as a result. Eighty three per cent said they had been harassed about their debts despite informing lenders of their mental health problems, while 79% said their conditions had not been taken into account when decisions were made about their financial difficulties.
Court action and debt collectors
Of those in problem debt, over three-quarters had been threatened with court action and half had been contacted by debt collectors, which often had a negative impact on their mental health, respondents reported.
The report also found that though a large proportion of those in problem debt were in contact with mental health services, less than a quarter had spoken to a mental healthcare professional about it.
Mind called for the Equality and Human Rights Commission to conduct an inquiry into how bailiffs treat disabled people, particularly those with mental health problems. It said banks should respond appropriately to missed payments by people with mental health problems, with penalties waived and cases referred to specialist mental health teams within the banks.
It also called for training for health and social care staff in identifying debt triggers in service users and sourcing support for financial problems.
Mind week 2008