An analysis of callers to National Debtline revealed that 50% had put off calling to seek help because they were too stressed. Since the start of a new year is statistically a time when debtors turn to expensive loans as a quick fix, I believe now is the time to raise awareness about the risks of problem debt, and to consider how we can help solve it.
The first hurdle is admitting that there’s a problem. This is as true for creditors as it is for debtors. Outgoings now surpass income in UK households for the first time in 30 years, and yet many of us are struggling to face the problem head on.
As well as creating problems for creditors, whether it’s local authorities trying to collect council tax or businesses waiting to be paid, debt has a real impact on the mental health of debtors. Studies suggest that one in four people with mental health difficulties are also in debt. This simply cannot be ignored.
The importance of opening up
As I’ve discussed previously, the taboo surrounding debt can lead to a ‘secrecy cycle’, in which people struggling with debt hide from their problem as their debt continues to mount up.
The good news is that debt charities have a range of statistical and anecdotal evidence suggesting that the very act of opening up can be a catalyst for change. So encouraging awareness of the warning signs can make a real difference. The Money Advice Service recommends watching out for the following ‘mental health alarms’, both for yourself and loved ones:
Change in mood or temper
Increased tiredness or lack of sleep
Being anxious, stressed or lacking confidence to contact financial service providers (banks)
Spending more money than you/they have
Not opening bills or checking bank balance
Feeling out of control
Avoiding talking about money
Being anxious about spending any money
Avoiding answering the telephone.
Avoiding important financial decisions
Feeling unable to process information about money
Taking time off work unexpectedly.
Providing proper support
Creditors and their partners, like my own firm Dukes Bailiffs, also have a collective responsibility to ensure that debtors understand the situation. Only by properly explaining the long-term nature of the problem, and how it can take hold, can we hope to help debtors out of hot water.
This can be achieved in part by using PR and communications to share useful information, and encourage openness. But we must also engage directly with debtors, taking the time to understand their situation before seeking solutions. Only with this level of support and understanding can we hope to find solutions that are fair to both debtors and creditors.
Many thanks for viewing my post, I hope you found it useful.
If you have any private questions on the subject matter, you can connect with me on LinkedIn and send me a message, or else you'll find my contact details on my LinkedIn profile: linked.com/in/colin-naylor.