Anyone living with high levels of personal debt from credit cards and loans will know just how badly it affects their mental health. Financial problems can leave us feeling on edge all the time, dreading a knock at the door, or news that the car needs to be repaired and another school trip is coming up.
Research from the Money and Mental Health Policy Institute shows that as many as half of adults in debt also have a mental health problem, and almost three-quarters said their condition negatively impacted their finances. Worryingly, more than 100,000 people who have problem debt think about suicide.
In some cases, people get into financial difficulties because they already suffer from poor mental health. You might try to self-medicate by spending too much, or perhaps find staying on top of daily expenses a challenge. Meeting the cost of living can also be extremely difficult for those who are unable to work and on benefits – especially if you’re not used to Universal Credit (UC), introduced in Sheffield in November 2018.
How can a debt adviser help?
The first step is to seek medical help for your condition, if you have not done so already. As well as speaking to you GP, you’ll also find information about NHS mental health services in Sheffield here. Another useful resource is the Sheffield Mental Health Guide, which has information on debt, money, benefits and wellbeing.
Even though debt advisers are not qualified counsellors or medical professionals, they have experience dealing with complex cases. Along with emotional reassurance, they provide practical help too – for instance, contacting your creditors to ask for ‘breathing space’ so you can get on top of your problems, and signposting to the right support services.
A debt adviser can also speak to your creditors on your behalf and, with your permission, inform them that you have mental health problems As long as your lender is working within the rules governing the financial services industry, you could be eligible for support in paying off your debts. Some creditors will ask for a Debt and Mental Health Evidence Form (DMHEF), which you can now get from your
Will details of my mental health condition be shared?
It is only natural to be concerned that your sensitive information will be sent to your creditors without permission. While nobody has to disclose details about their health, it is important to remember that debt advisers must follow strict confidentiality rules, especially when dealing with vulnerable clients. Unless you provide ‘express consent’, they will not tell your creditors you have a mental health condition. Since this sensitive information is protected by law, debt advisers would need to tell you why they want to tell your lenders and get written permission from you.
You can, of course, withhold any details you don’t feel comfortable with sharing. By keeping your creditors in the loop, however, they may be more sympathetic to your circumstances.
Am I going to be treated differently?
Debt advisers are impartial and specially trained to work with vulnerable people. They understand the close connection between mental health and debt although they also know that everyone’s situation is different, so will help you come up with a solution to meet your specific needs.
We cannot stress enough that your case will be handled with the utmost respect and without judgement. As mentioned above, you will never be forced disclose details about your mental health condition – but your adviser is better able to find a solution that better meets you need when they have more information. This includes everything from ensuring you have the right repayment plan, to helping you identify benefits you may be entitled to.