An estimated 23,000 people experience problem debt while in hospital for a mental health crisis each year, according to new figures from a charity set up by MSE founder Martin Lewis.

The Money and Mental Health Policy Institute (MMHPI), which calculated the figures as part of its new report Recovery Space, is calling for the 'breathing space' that the Government plans to offer those in serious debt to be extended to all those in mental health crisis. Its call has been backed by a broad coalition of other charities, including Mind, Rethink Mental Illness, StepChange and Carers UK.

People struggling with serious debt problems are set to be given up to six weeks' grace from further interest, charges and enforcement action, under plans unveiled by the Government in October.

But the Money and Mental Health Policy Institute, established by Martin in 2016 wants these changes extended to anyone in hospital for a mental health crisis, or under the care of a mental health crisis team in their local community.

If you're struggling with money and mental health problems, see our free Mental Health and Debt booklet for help.

Chased for debt while in hospital

The MMHPI report estimates that some 23,000 people experience problem debt while in hospital for a mental health crisis each year. It's calculated this figure based on its analysis of the number of referrals to NHS crisis response teams and the prevalence of problem debt among people experiencing mental health, as recorded in the Adult Psychiatric Morbidity Survey. See the MMHPI's full methodology here.

MMHPI says these people are likely to be receiving calls and emails from banks, credit card companies, local authorities and other creditors whilst in acute distress, potentially feeling suicidal. It says that thousands more are in a similar position while receiving mental health crisis support in the community.

Its research also found a significant proportion of people fall behind on bills while they are acutely unwell. Some 86% of 157 people with lived experience of a mental health crisis who responded to a MMHPI survey had fallen behind on at least one bill, and nearly half (44%) had problems with five or more different bills.

'Time to stop people in mental health crisis being hassled over debt'

Martin said:“It’s time to stop people in mental health crisis being hassled over debt, which risks making recovery harder, and means they’ll be even less likely to repay creditors in future.

“I long campaigned for breathing space for those in crisis debt. But for those having a short period of acute mental illness - suffering panic attacks, unable to open post, call the bank or even think coherently - going to a debt counsellor in order to call a halt to things is just impossible.

“Extending the breathing space scheme so that it gives people recovery space could genuinely save lives, allowing people to focus on getting better rather than cowering at the worry of bailiffs at the door. And with the tragically common marriage of mental illness and debt, the simplest way to do it is assume all in serious mental health crisis are likely to be struggling with their cash.

“I do hope the Government will see the sense in this and act quickly to help."

How can I support the campaign?

You can add your name to a letter being sent to Chancellor Philip Hammond, calling for an extension of the 'breathing space' protection, by filling in a form on this page.

You can also tweet about the campaign using the hashtag #RecoverySpace.