Debt and depression – part two

Posted 11 October 2015

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Do you have someone in your life who is depressed due to debt? Find out how you can help them get the emotional and practical help they need.

Yesterday, our post coincided with World Mental Health day and was all about the negative effects problem debt can have on mental wellbeing. While the person with the unmanageable debt is often going through a great deal of emotional distress, it can be just as difficult standing by while someone you care about suffers. So what can you do to help? Thankfully, there are a number of ways that you can help and support someone through this tricky time.

Emotional Support

There are two types of help that your friend or family member may need: emotional and psychological support to help them believe in a happier future, and practical help to reduce and clear their debts. Let’s focus on the emotional support first.

According to Mind the best thing to do is to encourage them to see their GP who can refer them to a specialist support if necessary. Offer to go with them if you’re worried they won’t go by themselves. Helping someone can become even more difficult if there are other factors at play, for instance, a mental health problem that your friend already has or if they’re also under pressure at work or in the home. In this case you really should refer them to a professional for the help that they need.

Having said that, providing an understanding, non-judgmental ear can also make a huge difference. If you’re there for them, you can be part of helping them to see the light at the end of the tunnel, which is a wonderful thing to do. To paraphrase Mind, you need to gently encourage them to speak, listen closely, and help them change their situation, if possible. While you’re doing this, understand that there’s no quick fix for a condition as complex as mental health problems often are and that, no matter how eager you are, there’s only so much you can do – you can’t fix everything.

If you’re providing support on a regular basis to someone with a mental health issue (even if you think that issue is temporary) you’re technically acting as a carer, so don’t forget to take care of yourself. Organisations, like Carer’s Trust and Carers UK offer help if it ever starts to feel like more than you can handle.

How should I approach the subject?

Bringing up the issue of mental health can be difficult – some people feel embarrassed, uncomfortable or even scared even thinking about it. According to The Mental Health Foundation the stigma surrounding mental health is still alive, and people who suffer with this type of illness may well be scared of being treated differently or unfairly. By reaching out and helping your friend through feelings of depression, you can show them that it’s nothing to be ashamed of, and importantly, that they don’t have to face it alone.

If, when you talk to your friend, they describe their financial problems as being so bad that they want to take their own life, never just brush it off as being over-dramatic or just a phase. It could be that they are serious about their feelings. If you’re very concerned about someone, learn how to identify the warning signs of severe depression and suicidal thoughts.

If they seem reluctant to talk about how they’re feeling, you could suggest that they write down how they feel and allow you to read it. Research has shown that some people feel more comfortable expressing complex emotions using pen and paper.

Practical help

Sometimes the reason people with unmanageable debt feel so low is because they are not aware of the many solutions out there specifically designed to help them. So make sure that your friend is aware of these routes to a debt-free future. If your friend opens up and it’s clear that the cause of their depression is their financial problems, then this is something that can be resolved.

Being on the right debt solution can provide a massive sense of relief. According to Government statistics, 79% of people said that going onto a Debt Relief Order had a positive impact on their mental health. And a DRO is just one option amongst many others, like Debt Management Plans, Individual Voluntary Arrangements, or Bankruptcy (other solutions are available in Scotland). You could suggest your loved one has a chat with us, using one of the ‘contact us’ options in the left. Our trained debt advisors are here to help. They’re trained in all the available debt solutions and have the knowledge and experience necessary to help people reduce or clear their debts.

We hope this post has been helpful. While money worries can make people sink into depression, if they’re provided with the correct emotional and practical help, there’s no reason they can’t make a full recovery. 

by Christine Walsh

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To find out more about managing your money and getting free debt advice, visit Money Advice Service, an independent service set up to help people manage their money.