Time and time again, QSA’s longstanding work with people on low incomes has demonstrated to us the negative impact that money worries can have on people’s mental wellbeing.
QSA wholeheartedly supports the Money and Mental Health Policy Institute’s (MMHPI’s) efforts in highlighting the link between problem debt and suicidality, and in exploring what can be done to reduce the risk of suicide associated with financial difficulty.
Late last year MMHPI (which was founded by the prominent journalist and television presenter Martin Lewis in 2016) published a report on the link between financial difficulties and suicide. Using national data and an in-depth survey, the report identified the truly shocking fact that over 100,000 people in England each year attempt suicide whilst struggling with problem debt.
MHHPI found that “people in problem debt are three times more likely to have considered suicide than people who are not in problem debt”, and that “long-term factors such as persistent poverty and financial insecurity can [put] people at risk of becoming suicidal, as can sudden triggers like the intimidating and threatening letters people receive from lenders.”
MMHPI’s report made a series of recommendations for multi-agency work to try and reduce the risk of suicide associated with financial difficulty. Whilst recognising that there are normally a wide range of issues which contribute to someone becoming suicidal, MMHPI identifies that “one factor which can make people feel there is no way out is the letters they receive from creditors”. QSA’s Director Judith Moran has signed MMHPI’s petition calling on the government to update the out-of-date legislation which currently compels creditors to use intimidating and complex language in debt collection letters.
Another of MMHPI’s key recommendations is to “make every contact count to reduce the risk of suicide”, including organisations who have contact with vulnerable people being able to spot those who are at risk and where necessary make timely and effective referrals to specialist support services. QSA’s day to day work – for example supporting people across the UK struggling with basic funeral costs, helping families to develop their financial capability, or enabling ex-homeless east London residents to furnish their homes – regularly brings us into contact with people in serious financial difficulties.
When delivering all of its services, QSA strives to create the time and space to enable people to speak their truth and for our staff to listen; this approach and tone helps create the conditions in which some clients do disclose or show symptoms of mental health crises, and over the years QSA has supported clients with a variety of referrals to access the specialist help required.
Over and above this, a central plank of QSA’s work is helping families and individuals living on low incomes – and other professionals who support them – to develop positive dialogues about money, and feel more confident and in control in order to help avoid or mitigate financial crises. We do this not just by sharing practical budgeting techniques, but by providing time and space for people to reflect on how factors such as their emotions and childhood influences shape their financial behaviour. This is important because QSA believes that genuine financial capability depends not only on practical tools and ‘head knowledge’ but also on being able to recognise – and therefore positively shape – our own financial norms, strategies and values.
You can read more about QSA’s approach to supporting financial capability here – or see these short fun videos which explore the effects of emotions and childhood influences, and provide tips for helping children to lay the foundations for a healthy relationship with money into adulthood.