Debt & Mental Health
People in debt are often identified as suffering depression, anxiety and stress. If your feelings are getting out of control, you should firstly get help from an NHS professional. Your General Practitioner and other NHS health professionals offer the best free advice . The mental health charity MIND state that:
“Approximately 1 in 4 people in the UK will experience a mental health problem each year”.
“In England, 1 in 6 people report experiencing a common mental health problem (such as anxiety and depression) in any given week”.
“The overall number of people with mental health problems has not changed significantly in recent years, but worries about things like money, jobs and benefits can make it harder for people to cope”.
“It appears that how people cope with mental health problems is getting worse as the number of people who self-harm or have suicidal thoughts is increasing”.
Supporting you with your debt
If you are experiencing a mental health issue this does not automatically mean you cannot deal with your debts yourself, but it can make it more difficult and you may benefit from extra support. Mental Health UK advise that “Money issues are widespread with nearly 3 in 10 (27%) of people have struggled to pay bills or rent”. Mental Health UK estimates that four million people in the UK are at risk of mental health issues because they’re having financial difficulties.
It is better to speak to a debt specialist as soon as possible, but remember it is never too late to deal with your debt problems, no matter how impossible your situation seems. An experienced debt specialist will be able to discuss several options and ways in which you can deal with your debts. For example, this may be negotiating a repayment plan or a more formal way of clearing your debts. If you choose to disclose your mental health issues, you will be treated fairly, sensitively and the details you provide will be treated confidentially.
Dealing with creditors
If you feel confident enough, you may want to contact your creditors , explaining that you are experiencing mental health issues, this may help with your negotiations and depending on the particular debt issue you may be offered breathing space whilst you seek specialist advice.
Creditors and the law
It is essential that creditors comply with the law. For some individuals experiencing a mental health condition you will be offered protection by the Equality Act 2010. This act stipulates that creditors must make reasonable adjustments to help you. Most creditors will also have their own rules and guidelines to follow when dealing with customers who need extra support.
There are numerous ways that a creditor can help you, for example:
- Agree to put collection activity on hold for a short period
- Arrange to contact you at specific times only
- Agree to contact you in a way you prefer, such as by letter rather than phone
- Give you extra time to obtain information
- Make an agreement not to pass your debt to a debt collection agency
- Ensure that their specialist staff/team deal with your case only
If you want a third party, support worker, adviser or relative or friend, to deal with your creditors on your behalf you will have to give consent. By law, your creditors will need your permission before they can discuss your details with anyone. Creditors usually require this in writing or by completing a form, which they will provide you.
Debt & Mental Health Evidence Form (DMHEF)
The Debt & Mental Health Form is designed to make sure that evidence of your situation is transferred to your creditors in a simple way. You can download the latest form (DMHEF version 4), once completed, it can be photocopied and sent to all of your creditors, you should always keep a copy for your own records. You will need the assistance of an adviser to use the form and will be asked to provide your 'explicit consent' and might be asked to complete a DMHEF consent form.
The form does not have to be accepted by your creditors but it is accepted by a majority of creditors and by the FCA which is the regulator of the credit industry. Your mental health issues may be seriously affecting how you deal and handle your money and debts and the creditors may request evidence to support what you are saying.
In England, GP's and medical professionals have agreed not to charge for completing the DMHEF under their NHS contract. If you exoerience any problems in England, you can refer to the 'National Health Service (General Medical Services Contracts and Personal Medical Services Agreements) (Amendment) Regulations 2019'.
The above agreement does not at this time extend to Scotland, Northern Ireland or Wales but it is still possible to make a good case for not charging. It can be helpful to explain to local practice managers how helpful the DMHEF is in achieving the best outcomes for people and how this might alleviate pressure and waiting times on GP & other health services.
Mental Health & Debt write-off
The DMHEF can be used as evidence to support a request for debt to be written off. This is only usually considered where you can prove that you have no surplus income or realisable assets and where your circumstances are unlikely to improve.
The Good Practice Awareness Guidelines for helping people with mental health conditions and debt was produced by the Money Advice Liaison Group (MALG), these suggest that creditors should consider writing off unsecured debts when mental health conditions are long-term and where there is little chance of the debt being repaid.
Every Mind Matters
The NHS launched a campaign and website 'Every Mind Matters' to provide support and tips on managing mental health and improviving it.
'Every Mind Matters is here to help you manage and maintain your mental health, as good mental health makes such a difference. It helps us to relax more, achieve more and enjoy our lives more.'
The site also provides links to some useful mobile apps to help you on the go, and when you only have a spare few minutes, it all counts.
Codes of practice
Creditors are obliged to follow certain rules and guidance, this varies depending on the types of debt you have.
Financial Conduct Authority (FCA)
The FCA regulate debt such as credit cards and loans. The FCA’s Consumer Credit sourcebook (CONC) (rules and guidelines) state a lender must have clear policies in place for customers who are in arrears and particularly vulnerable. This includes customers who have ‘mental health difficulties’.
The Standards of Lending Practice: Personal Customers (loans, credit cards etc.)
These standards state that ‘customers who are in financial difficulty and considered vulnerable should be dealt with positively and sympathetically’.
The Taking Control of Goods: National Standards
This gives guidance on good practice for bailiffs (also known as enforcement agents) - Vulnerability should be considered by both the bailiff and the creditor before referring the case to a bailiff, each situation should be assessed on a case by case basis.
You may owe money to HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) for example income tax or tax credits. HMRC’s internal guidance states they should make reasonable adjustments for a person with mental health issues which have a substantial and long-term adverse effect on their ability to carry out normal day-to-day activities.
Notice of correction
Credit reference agencies hold information about your credit agreements and payment history, which is used by creditors when they decide whether to lend you money.
You are entitled to add a ‘notice of correction’ to your credit reference files if you are concerned you may continue to obtain unnecessary credit. The statement consists of up to 200 words allowing you to explain your circumstances to potential creditors. It can be used as a temporary measure, and you are free to remove the notice of correction at any time.
In an emergency
You can call 999 if you are worried that you or someone else is in immediate danger.
You can also ask to stay on the line while you wait for help to arrive.
Offers support for people living with anxiety disorders by providing information, support and understanding through a range of different services.
T: 03444 775 774
Financial Conduct Authority (FCA)
T: 0800 111 6768 or 0300 500 8082
Provides advice and support to individuals living in Wales who are experiencing a serious mental health illness.
T: 01792 816 600
Call HopelineUK on 0800 068 41 41
Text 07786 209697
If you are under 35 and feel that life is not worth living any more, call Papyrus's HopelineUK from 9am to 10pm weekdays and 2pm to 10pm on weekends.
Mental Health Foundation
The website provides useful information on looking after your mental health and wellbeing. See the Your Mental Health section.
Provides confidential advice and support to anyone experiencing a mental health problem.
T: 0300 123 3393
The website offers information on a range of mental health issues.
Rethink Mental Illness
Runs a national helpline and support groups for people living with mental illness, their carers and relatives.
T: 0300 5000 927
Runs a confidential listening service.
Phone: 116 123
Provides emotional support and information to anyone affected by mental illness.
T: 0300 304 7000