Urgent action called for as mental health sufferers consider or attempt suicide after finances hit during the pandemic
People with mental health problems have faced a much bigger hit to their finances during the pandemic than the wider population and are three times more likely to have fallen into serious debt, according to the results of a major national survey published today.
The findings of a study from the Money and Mental Health Policy Institute (MMHPI), founded by Martin Lewis, shows most people who were struggling with their mental health and debt also missed out on vital payment holidays and other covid-related support measures.
The charity says urgent action is required from the Government, the NHS and essential services providers to stop the "devastating cycle of debt and mental health problems" that has been fuelled by the outbreak of Covid-19.
"These issues have had a shocking psychological impact. Forty-four per cent of people with mental health problems, who fell behind on payments during the pandemic, considered or attempted suicide — amounting to 2.5 million people in total," the charity said.
The new report, ‘The state we're in: money and mental health in a time of crisis’, additionally shows that people with mental health problems were more than twice as likely to have relied on credit or borrowing to cover every day spending during the pandemic and were more likely to have had zero savings to help them cope with emergencies.
Martin: 'People with mental health and debt problems have slipped through the cracks'
Commenting on the research, Martin Lewis, founder and chair of the Money and Mental Health Policy Institute said:
“The pandemic financially split the nation. Many gained - those who had support and lower costs often built up savings. Yet for others, it was catastrophic, and it’s a national tragedy that a disproportionate number of that group are those struggling with their mental health who missed out on the support they need to avoid reaching crisis point.
“We’re only beginning to understand the full impact of the pandemic on our lives. But these shocking findings make it clear that too many people with mental health and debt problems were excluded from help and allowed to slip through the cracks, and the results have been disastrous.
“This is about raising an alarm. Government, health professionals and essential services need to double down on efforts to stop people with mental health problems falling further into financial hardship. Prevention is better, and in the long run cheaper for the nation, than cure.
“I hope the rhetoric about ‘building back better’ from the pandemic is more than just a soundbite, as there is no time to waste - lives are at stake.”
In response to the findings, the MMHPI wants more to be done
The MMHPI says the Government, healthcare professionals and the services industry need to evolve to recognise how they can reduce the enormous pressures that people with mental health and debt problems face:
- The Government should prioritise tackling the links between debt, mental health problems and suicide in its pandemic recovery plans. It says addressing the link between financial difficulty and serious mental health problems should be at the heart of this plan.
- GPs, A&E departments and community mental health services should ask people receiving treatment for mental health problems about their finances. They should also provide clear signposting to help to assist those who need it.
- Banks, energy companies and other essential services providers should proactively identify customers who may be struggling, and improve the support they offer. This could include developing better processes for referring people to debt advice, offering realistic repayment plans, freezing interest and charges, and reviewing decisions on debt collection for customers with mental health problems.