Mental Health and Debt: Mental Health Workers & Others Feedback Needed

in Debt-Free Wannabe
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  • I'm a retired community psychiatric nurse and was interested to see this thread as I have become increasingly worried about what will happen to people with mental health problems getting caught up in the benefits changes. IE 'everyone can work or lose benefit' I wrote to our local paper about it, see below, but feel concerned about folk going into debt or ending up back in hospital and thus not saving the government money in the long run.

    Dear Editor re Reform of the benefit system

    And so the current government and now the Tories as well turn their attention to ‘sick note’ Britain having resolved the difficulties of Northern Ireland, Iraq and the National Health Service. While it is laudable to encourage people back into work I feel very concerned about the many individuals with serious Mental Health problems now being cared for in the Community, having previously been told that Hospital and inpatient care is not the best option. Community care is not a cheap alternative and the care and support given to Mental Health users is already delivered in a disjointed enough fashion without the threat of withdrawal or loss of benefits, which frequently allow people to be maintained in the Community.
  • AmesAmes Forumite
    18.5K Posts
    Couldn't agree more fishcake. I know that for a long time many mentally unwell people have been making plans for suicide if they get caught up in this and are told they have to work, it's been a big worry for a long time now.
    Unless I say otherwise 'you' means the general you not you specifically.
  • I have been in and out of debt for 17 years. I have also been in and out of deep dark depression for 17 years. When everything is ok financially I can cope with everything else, sometimes better than others. But as soon as I have a financial problem I hide away from it as it scares me more than anything. When I get bills I cant pay I hide them.... I know I do it but I promise myself I will deal with it tomorrow, but then another one comes and another. Till there is a to do pile so high on the coffee table that I can hardly see the TV. When I feel stronger I dont seem to get into debt because I work more and I do overtime etc and I manage to pay bills on time, but when Im feeling bad I dont function at all, its all I can do to get out of bed some days.
    I am currently in debt and have promised myself I will see someone about it soon, but I would rather close the curtains and sit in a dark room! Its very very difficult!
  • i have had depression for most of my life. but i built up debts on 5 credit cards and 2 store cards back in 2000-2002. i was going through a particularly bad time and i hadn't planned on being here to pay off the debts. This meant that i was oblivious of how much i was spending. i was taking any credit that was offered to me. (all of these debts were offered, i did not go looking for any of them).
    i accept responsibilty for these debts now. i am not trying to get out of them. but 6 years on i am still paying, bit by tiny bit, towards these debts. most of my creditors were quite reasonable and we were able to come up with some sort of payment plan.
    if only creditors understood that i cannot increase payments 4 times a year. i feel i am constantly being asked for an increase. some companies review every 6 months but some every 3 months. this in itself can cause distress. and they often will not accept no for an answer. i have submitted many income/expenditue forms showing that i can only pay x-amount per month, and inevitably the creditor asks for a payment of x-times-2-amount per month.
    a little understanding can make the world of difference. it seems that creditors think we are all just trying to get out of paying. if i suddenly came in to money, the first thing i would do is pay off my debts. i hate having them hang over me. unfortunately that is unlikely to happen, so i keep paying alot of my benefits to debts from along time ago.
  • Hi,
    My partner has suffered Bipolar and Border Line Personality Disorder, since 1985, I have been with him four years, as he gets older, the mental health problems he suffers, become worse, as does his attitude to money, he as absolutely no idea about money. Luckily, he trusts me with his money, to pay for his bills and buy his food, but believe me, if he had control of his money, he would be bankrupt, for example, he has spent silly amounts on technology, new gadgets, having three of the same thing. It is very hard for him to understand and i do try to explain about debt, but like I said, he has absolutely no idea. People with mental health problems are very vulnerable and do need help and support!

    Thanks for listening.
  • AGB863AGB863 Forumite
    521 Posts
    Part of the Furniture 100 Posts
    I have worked as a debt councellor in the voluntry sector for nearly 7 years and my experience of delaing with people with mental health issues and debt is that they need alot more support than other cases.

    People with mental health issues can not always access the normal areas of support that are available, ie CAB.

    This may be due to a number of reasons like not being able to get out of the house, deal with people, letters etc.

    One of the valuable lessons that we have learned over the years is to visit the people in their own home to do all the case work and to give as much home support as possible.

    This at time can be very demanding on our team, but without this level of support, some people who are suffering, feel let down and can not see a way out of the sitaution that thay are facing.

    Doing this we also forge close links with support workers from mental health teams and we are able to support more people who they come across suffering in the same situation.

    I know that this may not be possible for a number of organisations to be able to do, but I can say, if you can do it - do it!

    Can't add anything else, but it has been a good thread to read.
    I am a debt counsellor working in the voluntary sector - we don't charge our clients for the work we do!
  • I have long term mental health problems and ended up in hospital a year ago after taking an overdose. At the time I was close to eviction. I hadn't opened any mail for a year, and hadn't paid any bills at all. It all stemmed from a change in benefits which left me temporarily unable to make payments. The whole thing spiralled and I couldn't deal with it. Community mental health teams are very overstretched and refused to help. Fortunately on discharge from hospital I made it to the CAB who sorted it all out for me.
    Unfortunately I'm back in the same boat again when it comes to the credit card debt. Both issuers had agreed to £1 per month but filling out and sending back the standing order form was beyond me for a while. A letter from my gp outlining my diagnosis and how it affected me (chronic lack of motivation, excessive spending when high) didn't change the situation. Fortunately my dad has now given me some money and i'm trying to negotiate part payment as full settlement.

    I think the following are worth bearing in mind.

    A lot of the time the mentally ill aren't claiming the right benefits. I didn't know i could get DLA and that has made a huge difference to my monthly income.

    Going to the CAB is very difficult. Sitting in a packed waiting room can induce panic attacks etc.

    Many of us have chronic fatigue and just making a phone call or writing a letter is often beyond us.
  • cranezoecranezoe Forumite
    434 Posts
    Im a mental health advocate working in the voluntary sector and have been for about 4 and a half years. Before that I was a CAB volunteer.
    An advocate will work with people who have mental health problems to make sure that they are able to get their voice heard on a range of issues, helping them to speak up for themselves, understand what they are being told and their rights and responsibilities, think what questions they want to ask people, find information and look at different ways to get listened to. We do this with lots of issues in a number of different ways such as face to face meetings, phone calls, emails and attending appoinments, speaking on people's behalf and writing letters.

    With debt our clients tend to want someone who can encourage them to make the steps to address their issues. Some won't have opened the letters they get at all and others will just not understand what the letters are saying or where to start.
    We tend to help our clients to make an appointment to see someone at the CAB and go along with them and have helped them dig out all the relevant paperwork before hand. There is also a debt line that we use over the phone with clients if they don't want to use CAB for any reason.
    We help to break the debts down into seperate sections, explain about priority and non priority debts and look at each debt individually.
    Then there is the issue of helping the client to stay out of debt. We talk about the reasons why they are in debt - bipolar disorder often has a symptom of over spending so we would help the client discuss this with their care co-ordinator and to be aware of early warning signs.
    We look at the whole picture - thinking about are they depressed because of the debt and by feelings of being overwhelmed or are they in debt because of their mental health.
    We would also identify any other areas they could do with support in. This will then help us and them to see what we can do.
    Some clients just want us to assist them to make that first step and understand information and others want support through the whole process and possibly after as well. Some will call to say they have been offered a credit card or loan months down the line and are wondering if they should take it.

    Vulnerability is a big issue with this client group too. Many don't understand, or don't consider the implications of debt and will sign agreements without thinking or not think about the ways debt can be reduced or how to prioritise.

    The service we offer goes at the speed the client wants, we are client led and they set the goals so its very different for each client.

    If there is any way that our organisation and its clients can be involved in this guide or if any more information about advocacy would be useful then please do let me know. We could get a group of clients together to discuss their issues or we could give some more information on how we work with debt.

    Debt is scary for everyone.....mental health is too..... the two together can be very difficult and so any guides or support are most definately needed and welcomed.
  • Ames wrote: »
    Couldn't agree more fishcake. I know that for a long time many mentally unwell people have been making plans for suicide if they get caught up in this and are told they have to work, it's been a big worry for a long time now.

    I have made those plans and I know I'm not the only one.

    However I was digging around on the dwp website and looking at their decision makers guide. It says existing IB claimants won't start being transferred over until 2012 at the earliest, so at least we have a few more years yet.
  • My mum has suffered from bouts of Mania over the years and last episode 4 years ago - it wasnt till the night before she was due in court for reposession she told any of us about it. We managed to salvage the situation and spent the next 4 years digging her out of debt - only for another episode to trigger a few months ago - She genuinely believes at these times she has loads of money because some stupid idiot has given her a credit card which she has already ran up over a £1000 (that she tells us about when she broke down last week) so Im thinking double it at least, as she hides and forgets so much. When I spoke to her CMHT worker they said they couldnt help with debt side of things as there overrun with cases of just trying to get people the right medication. Honestly dont know how credit card companies can be so irresponsible - she hasnt been working for 3 months yet still managed to get a card?????????????????
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