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07th February 2014

Mental Health and the Cycle of Debt

Debt problems.Assessments of people with mental health problems should always try and identify any financial problems. A new report called The Relationship Between Mental Well-being And Financial Management Among Older People by University of Bristol’s Personal Finance Research Centre,  is showing how the combination of people struggling through difficult financial circumstances, and the impact of debt on people’s well-being, is storing up a potential explosion of mental health problems amongst people who have borrowed money in recent years. The economic situation of the last few years makes this a very live issue. Let’s think about the link between mental health and debt, and whether there is anything mental health care staff can do about it.

Spiral of debt and poor health

First of all, I think this is another of those questions where you ask which came first, the debt or the health problem. Poor physical or mental health may mean less income and a real motivational struggle to deal with financial matters. Equally knowing you are getting into a spiral of debt may be a factor in causing depression. If you are suffering from depression, then the thought of trying to negotiate with creditors, or deal with correspondence from banks just becomes painfully difficult.

If you are working with someone who is in a cycle of debt and mental health problems, support from GPs may be helpful, but the real key has to be to get advice to the person that can start to make the debt more manageable.

Getting sound advice

If you’re working with someone with mental health problems who’s also in debt difficulties, here are a few resources that might help:

  • There’s a useful leaflet called Final Demand published by the Royal College of Psychiatrists for health and social care workers which can be found at The leaflet includes some useful advice as to how to identify when someone is struggling with debt, and being willing to ask difficult or embarrassing questions about someone’s financial circumstances.
  • The website publishes some helpful advice on handling issues around confidentiality and mental capacity in their ‘Debt and Mental health’ guide which can be downloaded from:
  • Step Change Debt Advice (which used to be called the Consumer Credit Counselling Service) feature plenty of useful debt management tools on their website at:
  • Finally, the QCS management system includes policies and assessment tools that can guide workers in helping Service Users seek money advice.

*All information is correct at the time of publishing

Topics: Mental Health

David Beckingham

Mental Health Specialist

David Beckingham is a self-employed independent trainer, and is also an honorary lecturer with the University of Cumbria. His professional background is as a social worker and he has worked in care homes for older people in Cumbria. David’s main area of expertise is in mental health. Prior to becoming self-employed he was a Staff Development and Training Officer with Cumbria County Council, both commissioning and delivering training to mental health workers and others in statutory and independent sector organisations. Read more

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