As it's Mental Health Awareness Week, the chief executive of StepChange, Mike O'Connor, is here to tell us how the charity has joined forces with the Mental Health Foundation to help people tackle their debt and stress issues at the same time. For more help on this, also see MoneySavingExpert.com's free Mental Health & Debt Help booklet 2015.
Seeking help with debt problems is a big step for many people. People struggle on alone for too long, making the financial problem worse but also doing damage to their mental health and to their relationships with their family and loved ones.
At StepChange Debt Charity, we know that debt and mental health are often inextricably linked. Worry about debt can lead to mental health problems and an existing mental health issue can lead to money troubles.
One in four of us will suffer with a mental health problem at some time in our lives, and being in debt doubles your chance of mental illness. In a recent survey of our clients, 47% said they had visited their GP as a result of mental or physical health problems caused by their debts.
While 67% said they felt "downhearted and blue" a good part or most of the time, 65% felt themselves "getting agitated", and 53% said they felt they "weren't worth much as a person".
Mental Health Awareness Week
That's why, for this year's Mental Health Awareness Week (11-17 May), we've teamed up with the Mental Health Foundation (MHF) to launch our Debt in Mind campaign, aimed at helping people to tackle their debt and stress issues at the same time.
As part of this, we've updated our 7 Days, 7 Ways email programme so that anyone who signs up to it from Monday (11 May) onwards also gets mindfulness tips from the MHF. So when participants sign up for the email, every day for a week, they'll receive a step-by-step guide to starting to deal with their debts while also looking after their mental health and wellbeing.
So on one day you might look to open all those letters, statements and demand notices from creditors, while also learning how to better manage any negative thoughts linked to your money troubles rather than being overwhelmed by them.
To get the campaign kicked off, we've also provided some of our partner organisations with materials to promote Debt in Mind to their customers and employees.
'Free, confidential help is out there'
It is difficult for most of us to admit to having a debt problem and to speak to anyone about it. We hope that we can give people the courage to speak up, to confront a bad situation before it becomes worse.
Free, confidential help is out there. It can be life-changing, and people who go through the advice process tell us things like, "it was the first time I got a good night's sleep in so long", "a weight was lifted off my shoulders" or "it felt like there was a light at the end of the tunnel".
We've had some fantastic social media interaction, too, taking part in a live Twitter chat alongside MSE's Forum and MHF and really getting the message out there that tackling your debt and stress together doesn't have to be as daunting as it may seem.
By combining our debt expertise with the expert knowledge of the MHF, we aim to provide as many people as possible with the tools they need to take lasting action on debt and the stress it can bring.
If you're one of those people, or know someone who you think could benefit, please do sign up to our 7 Days, 7 Ways email programme and see if we can help you.
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