It seems to be human instinct to put on a brave face when we’re hurting. And when money is the cause, there’s even more of a stigma. But asking for help is the first step to turning things around.
As DLA claimant Edward told the Royal College of Psychiatrists: “Debt put an impossible strain on my life worrying about bills…It was a constant worry, worry, worry that affected both my physical and mental health.”
When it comes to debt or arrears, as with Edward’s case, hiding away can often just make matters worse. Facing the problem and asking for help as soon as possible is the best way to get out of trouble. Avoiding things can bring us down and spiral out of control. In our latest Quids in! research, three in five readers (58%) told us money worries had made them feel frightened, anxious or depressed.
How can we speak up early and protect our wellbeing?
The problem with avoiding debts is that they can quickly spiral out of control. Just one or two missed repayments can lead to big charges and bad credit.
Problem debt also puts a huge strain on our mental health and wellbeing. New research by the Money and Mental Health Institute found 46% of people in debt also faced a mental health issue. The trouble is made worse by the stigma around talking about both debt and mental health.
As Helen Undy, Chief Executive of the Money and Mental Health Institute told The Guardian recently: “[The stigma] can make it difficult for people to open up about what they are going through and seek help. This has to change as it is destroying lives.”
So the sooner we ask for help, the sooner we can start to take back control of our lives, our finances and our health.
Who can I talk to?
For some of us dealing with mental health issues linked to money worries, seeing a GP is the right call. For others, it could be worth starting with debt advice or finding a money health-check service instead.
Veronica Kuperman, who runs MyScript and works with GPs to offer patients an alternative to pills when a health concern is not the result of something medical. She explains: “When people find themselves in a situation where they need help, they will adopt different approaches. Some will try to find advice searching on the web, making a phone call or attending an advice and information centre.
“Others who don’t know how and where to access help, or feel embarrassed or despondent about their situation, might visit their GP instead.” Some GPs will know where people might try before turning to medication but others don’t. An increasing number of practices work in partnership with ‘social prescribing’ programmes like Veronica’s MyScript.
There are some great organisations out there who can help us manage our debt. They don’t judge us for getting into debt. They’re impartial, independent and can support us in a number of ways. This could be helping us create a Debt Management Plan (DMP) or contacting our creditors to arrange affordable repayment plans.
They immediately lighten the emotional load. Knowing someone is on our side brings great relief. Some advisors are able to contact those we owe money to and start the process of organising repayments we can afford. It’s what they do, so it’s not daunting to them, and it means we can focus on getting our life back on track.
Some social landlords, like councils and housing associations, also offer support on managing arrears. Some of the big names, like Optivo and Aster, offer help and advice to tenants with debts. For general advice, check out the Quids in! page on debt.
If you are struggling with debt, get in touch with one of the below asap:
Remember, you’re not alone
According to the most recent report by The Money Charity, the average household debt in the UK is now almost £60,000. The average credit card debt per household is over £2,500. These figures show that being in some kind of debt has become an everyday reality for most of us. So we should never let the stigma stop us seeking help.