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Driven to despair by spiralling debts
Debt is a significant factor in worsening mental health.
Money worries can lead to severe depression, self-harm and suicidal thoughts, according to the leading mental health charity Mind.
When things become too difficult to cope with, many people can’t see an end to their financial problems and become anxious and stressed. Often, they feel helpless, with no-one to turn to, and in extreme cases they consider taking their own life.
The average household debt is forecast to reach £72,341 by 2015. As well as facing ever-increasing prices in the supermarket aisles and the high costs of fuel, homeowners have been warned to prepare for rising mortgage costs. For those already struggling, these constant price increases could tip them over the edge.
Craig Gedey, managing director of Keighley-based Debt Advisory Line, says: “The economy is in a bad way at the moment and many people have been struggling for some time, but these recent price hikes have really hit the nation and people are now finding it harder than ever.”
Chairman John Goodfellow adds: “Although it is normal to be concerned over mounting debts, when things get too much to cope with, many people can’t see an end to their financial problems and become severely depressed. Often, people in debt feel helpless and, in extreme cases, some even consider suicide.”
Peter, a nurse working in Bradford, who does not want us to use his real name, knows how it feels to be locked in the misery of debt.
A decade ago, he was made redundant from a job not long after taking out a bank loan. He was then badly advised, and told to take out an Individual Voluntary Agreement.
“You have to look carefully at the small print. At the end of the period – for me it was five years – they send someone to value your house, and whatever equity you have they expect you to pay a percentage of that. I ended up having to pay another £11,000 on top of what I owed.
“I’d take out loans to pay off loans and then I took out credit cards,” he says. “I would hide the statements from my wife. I dreaded the post arriving.”
At first, Peter, who has two children, managed to meet the minimum payments required every month, but as time went on he began to fall behind, and this took a toll on his health.
Despite being back at work, he became depressed. “When I’m depressed I tend to spend money I haven’t got,” he says, recounting how, as his debts worsened, he began gambling online.
“I also found the pressure of my job – in a specialised area of nursing – hard to deal with and would escape this by gambling. I sometimes spent up to £180 a week on gambling,” he says.
Peter was prescribed anti-depressants, and when things spiralled out of his control he needed psychiatric help.
At the end of last year his debts totalled £32,000. Though struggling, Peter did not miss a mortgage payment. “I made sure I could always cover that,” he says.
Eventually, he sought help from the Debt Advisory Line, who drew up a debt-management plan with affordable monthly payments. He can now see the light at the end of the tunnel.
“They say in five-and-a-half years’ time half my debt will be wiped off. It is a long road, and I’m still on anti-depressants, but I feel better. My children know now – they are young adults and if they want finance they won’t be able to get it with this address, so they need to know.”
Bradford and Airedale Citizens’ Advice Bureau has appealed for volunteers to cope with the massive demand on services that saw 32,000 people with a combined debt of £16 million pass through its doors last year.
The CAB’s general manager, Razina Bostan, cited homelessness, payday loans and complex benefit claims as the main problems dealt with by staff at three offices across the district.
Sue Jack, senior counsellor at Leeds Trinity College in Horsforth, says: “In the current economic climate I have noticed an increase in the number of people presenting financial concerns in the counselling room.
“While many take financial problems in their stride, mounting debt for others can lead to them feeling highly anxious, powerless, isolated and lacking in self-esteem; all risk factors associated with depression.”
* Debt Advisory Line: 0800 2315860, or visit debtadvisoryline.co.uk. Bradford and Airedale CAB: 0844 2451282, or visit citizensadvice.org.uk.