Mental Health issues: should we stop people borrowing money?

This is the discussion to link on the back of Martin's "Should we stop people with mental health issues borrowing money?" blog. Please read the blog first, as the discussion follows it.

Read Martin's "Should we stop people with mental health issues borrowing money?" Blog

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  • purplestar1uk
    purplestar1uk Forumite Posts: 207
    Part of the Furniture Combo Breaker
    I can't work for reasons of mental ill-health and am in masses of debt. All of this was leant to me when I was on disability benefits, and though I take responsibility for spending the money I was lent, I really, really wish that in times of particularly poor health when my spending was out of control, one of these banks would have noticed I'm not earning, I've got lots of debt, and I so wish someone had stopped increasing and increasing my credit limits.

    I spent the money, but I really believe that apart from maybe a couple of hundred pounds credit I should not have been given the freedom I was. I was too ill, compulsive, sometimes out of control.

    I don't know what the answer is though. I just wish noone had lent to me in that state, so I couldn't have got into the mess I'm in now. Which, I have to admit, is now a big contributor to my ongoing mental health problems!
  • icornish
    icornish Forumite Posts: 9 Forumite
    This is a topic close to my heart, as my late partner had severe mental health issues, though was allowed to accrue debts the size of a small mortgage.

    Even though she could not work, and had limited income (from benefits), and had several CCJ's, she could still get approved for debt from various sources. When she left me, I estimated she'd spent approximately £30,000 on credit in the space of 2 years. That is more than the average annual gross salary in the UK. Due to the fact she had fraudulently secured some of it against my house, I was liable for about half of it, and I had to pay up (I know I could have reported it to the police as a fraud, but that would not have helped my partners illness).

    In the US, this is not an issue, as there are protections in place to prevent this kind of thing from happening in a major way. However, it requires the patient/customer to be on a register, and for that register to be available through the credit reference agencies. Such "public" registers of medical information are illegal under european law.

    I agree with the previous poster that the continual ability to spend money makes the patient's mental situation temporarily better, but once the red letters and court papers come in, their health rapidly deteriorates. It could be likened to a drug addict needing to feed their addiction, though mental health illnesses is not something an individual can choose to have, whereas people can choose whether they try drugs or not.
    3 Kids, 1 baby, 1 about to be born, 1 lovely wife, 2 cats, 2 rabbits, and 6 chickens... 1 big family!:rotfl:
  • dmg24
    dmg24 Posts: 33,925 Forumite
    The point that stands out to me in Martin's article is 'Where do we draw the line?'.

    I have mental health problems, which at times can lead to quite random spending sprees. Thankfully, I have an income that covers these (as long as I am incredibly frugal the rest of the time), and I tend to shop at places that will let me return the items.

    However, if I was prohibited from borrowing money due to my condition, I would be unable to have a mortgage, and generally to live a half normal life by having a credit card for emergencies, and even the occasional treat when I am well.

    So back to Martin's article, where do we draw the line? All those with mental health issues cannot borrow money, or those with certain conditions (knowing how unreliable diagnosis can be in this area)?

    I know that it is quite idealistic, but I think that the key is that people with mental health issues should have the day to day support to ensure that incidents such as excessive borrowing do not happen. However, having been through the medical system in this area, I fear this is a long way off.

    Another point of discussion, if the banks should have a moral (or legal) responsibility in this area, what about retailers? I spent £1200 that I didn't have on a holiday (for one!) last summer. Should they have checked whether I was capable of making such a judgment?

    I think it is far too grey an area (and far too big an area) to have a hard and fast rule, and even a set of guidelines would be incredibly complex if they were to cover all situations.
    Gone ... or have I?
  • wildflower
    wildflower Forumite Posts: 10 Forumite
    This is a heartbreaking and emotive topic.

    I have post traumatic stress disorder, a psychological injury resulting from childhood bullying and abuse at school 45 years ago when the word bullying barely existed. I suffer anxiety and grief and can be retraumatised back into my childhood self. It takes me 6 months minimum to recover each time but I refuse to live a boxed in life in the hope that it won't happen again. Like all people with mental/emotional issues I am still human and have good and bad periods and the right, in theory, to earn and spend money.

    I am so terrified of debt and poverty I've always counted pennies because I never know when I'll be retraumatised and unable to earn.

    There's a cheap and cunning way to feed the retail therapy animal: shopping by mail order or on line and then returning the goods within the time specified by the retailer. Depends whether you can afford the return postage. OK so it's a bit dicy 'cos you MUST return what you cannot afford and for some the concept itself would be hard to grapple with.

    Let's put a bit of perspective into this. If you have an emotional/mental health issue and can't work, you have lots and lots of hours and days and years to fill somehow. Going for a walk is great. Window shopping is great. Trying clothes on in the shop when you can't buy them because you live on the pittance you get on benefit is not good for your sanity or mental health and you don't have to be mentally ill to feel like crap about that. So much is beyond your reach for an endless list of reasons. Why shouldn't you have some fun like others do? You aren't any less human 'just' because you're mentally sick at the moment, despite what others think.

    What's the number given out? 1 in 4 people are suffering emotionally/mentally, this minute.

    Poverty and mental health issues are so often linked. Which is the cause and which the affect?

    So, I'm sorry but I object to the poster who likens the mentally/emotionally ill person to a drug addict. I hope you can see why. I'm not addicted to my illness. If there was any version of cold turkey available that would save me from being retraumatised I'd give all my savings to kick my 'addiction'!

    Mental/emotional illness is about struggle. I base that on my experience of theraputic groups and on my own life. Despite being well above average intelligence I have struggled, day by day and year by year to be a survivor of an illness that others foisted upon me as a child by their unremitting cruelty. It undermines how I think of myself, how I relate to others, where I work, who I work with, how high I can climb a career ladder, how much stress I can take, how much money I can earn, what I can disclose and what I must keep silent about. And yes, sometimes I spend when I shouldn't. What would you do in my position?

    What is really criminal (and needs looking at) isn't so much about loans but about culture. Mentally/emotionally ill people are treated with fear by many and stigmatised, often for life. If equal opportunities really existed and jobs were available or benefits livable on then debt would not be such an issue. But mental illness is stigmatised, despite the theoretical advances in the way impaired/disabled folk are treated. Even those laws are given more lip service in policy documents than in real life.

    As for the NHS itself, the 3 month rule from referral for psychological help to actually getting it just doesn't operate. Where I live, in London, a year is more like the waiting list for the fragile and vulnerable of mind/emotion. And that's a year to assessment for what kind of therapy might help, having jumped the hurdle to get to be seen by your community mental health crisis team. Another wait for talking treatment. That's a long time while you can't earn so might build up debt so on top of your illness you need to live like a pauper or get a CCJ for the council tax you can't pay because you had dinner instead. Talk about stress! Drugs you can have any time from your GP or psychiatrist but they don't cure anything - if you're unlucky you get turned into a zombie and a zombie has little control of their finances but they're safe from harming themselves or others. Our culture clearly prefers drugged zombies.

    My vote goes to taking a long hard look at the inherant poverty trap. And at the farce of treatment so that debt doesn't have to become another worry. You get more help if you have a heart attack.
  • fgaughan
    fgaughan Forumite Posts: 252 Forumite
    I know this is slightly off topic and Mental Health is a disability and they have difficulty in getting jobs.

    Looking at this link here

    Deaf people have difficulty in getting job along with anybody who have other disabilities so how an earth are we able to pay back?
    If anyone want to draw a line then its best to check if anyone in employment before letting them borrow.
    But as you all know banks make more money from anyone who are unemployed especially with disabilities' and its a longer term paying it off than people who are in work

    Yes i am Deaf if anyones asking
    While I breathe.... I hope
  • SADE613
    SADE613 Forumite Posts: 13 Forumite
    Dear Martin

    My mother was diagnosed with Alzheimers disease several years ago and we have had a battle with this topic ever since. Although she did not need a loan to cover her xmas shopping last year - she still took out several hundred from the high interest people that collect from your door and because of the disease she hid it from us. She also buys shoes etc from the newspaper. One pair that cost £10 ended up being chased by debt collectors for £126 where they had accrued interest! Luckily I managed to solve that one with a letter from her Doctor's. But as a family it is hard enough to deal with the disease and it's effects without dealing with hardy debt collectors too. Most of the letters she receives she does not understand and some she will throw away before showing us. She still uses her debit card and keeps the pin number in her purse - although her statements are now redirected to my sister's house so that we can keep a check. But we cannot take her independence away from her as this will speed up her deterioration.
    I hope that one day measures can be brought in for sufferers of this disease to stop any type of lending being given to them.
    many thanks
  • kopicbloodaxe
    kopicbloodaxe Forumite Posts: 76
    Part of the Furniture 10 Posts Combo Breaker
    Wow! What an emotive topic. I wish I had an answer. This question along with the "should banks be held responsible" issue has really hit a nerve with me and I feel motivated to try and do something about it - but I don't know what!

    Maybe the long term solution is to concentrate on educating the children of today to have a more practical grasp of money management and a more sympathetic view of people with disabilities (mental as well as physical). These children will then, hopefully, look after their own money when they grow up (avoiding debt while getting further educated) and those that get into positions working with disabled people will be better equipped to help them with their money situations.

    When I say "more sympathetic" I don't mean getting into the habit of saying "differently abled" or some other PC rubbish, I mean talking to them as equals. It shouldn't even be crossing our minds whether we should be treating "them" differently or not - they're just people like us.

    Hope no-one's offended by my terminology - just trying to explain how I feel. Badly. :-)

    So, YES, I think there should be some measures in place now to safeguard the finances of those less able to manage and understand their own affairs. Maybe every application for credit (including limit increases) should be countersigned by a GP? This, at least, would ensure that some of those groups at risk of losing control of their finances could be intercepted and given appropriate advice and assistance.

    I'm not advocating a nanny state or a public register, though. The GP signature would be a rubber-stamp in most cases, but where the GP is aware of learning difficulties or other condition which would impact finances then this is the ideal place to intervene.

  • meher
    meher Posts: 15,912
    10,000 Posts Combo Breaker
    Doesn't this boil down to capacity issue – if s/he's capable of taking a decision on financial matters or if s/he doesn't have the ability to communicate a decision due to being mentally ill or disabled.

    Also likely there are instances where financial crisis is not just due to lacking in capacity either - it could be due to lack of information, or having felt coerced.
  • pebble65
    pebble65 Forumite Posts: 94 Forumite
    This thread struck a chord here too.

    I used to be "normal". I borowed a small amount of money, perfectly controllable and repayable.....but then due to considerably appalling circumstance, I had a nervous breakdown. The banks and hire purchase companies were at first sympathetic. However during this period I was subjected to high pressure selling techniques by one company which resulted in me taking out a loan I should never have taken out, even though I told them at the onset of my mental health issues and the stress of repaying this lead me to further debt as a result of trying to keep up payments. I ended up owing around £15000 and because of the increased difficulty in my life , had enough I nearly had another breakdown but thankfully before I dd I managed to get good advice and help and turned to CCCS.I am now on a dmp and trying to repay the money.

    However, the creditors (especially a well known high street bank) attitude has become appalling. They ring and harrass me , although they have been requested by myself and by CCCS to contact me in writing, as the nature of my illness makes me vulnerable, and at risk. They have been told I am willing to repay the debt, that medical records can be given but they ain't interested and keep threatening me. I am not mad, just deeply stressed and vulnerable.

    I am managing to stay in work, part time, and am paying the dmp,it affects me a lot because I have a lower income now and I am finding it a huge struggle as I am also paying legal costs for a court contact case with my ex who has taken my children and wont let me see them. I have severe chronic depression. I am living off less than I should, -this is my "choice "because I want to repay the debt. I dont want to take the easier route and declare myself bankcrupt-I am trying to deal with the debt, my mental health and other problems. People who offer credit always say they will deal sympathetically if you have problems but they don't -the recent student suicides where HSBC have been involved reflect that. The whole industry needs more regulation and more ethical policies.
  • danihulo
    danihulo Forumite Posts: 7 Forumite
    I recently posted a question about this topic under the Loans section (sister has severe bipolar disorder which triggers uncontrolled spending) She cannot and will not ever work, has no income other than disability benefits and yet her bank was prepared to lend her 30K+. She is currently in debt in excess of 23K.

    I believe that we do have a responsibility to the members of our society who suffer terribly through these kinds of illness, to try to protect them and their loved ones from further stress and trouble brought on by the incredible levels of debt they can incur which they would not have done had they been well.

    Interestingly the response to my post was 50% supportive but there was a large amount of "she spent it, so she is responsible for paying it back, no sympathy here". This is a woman who would not be allowed to serve on a jury, could not be named as an executor of a will or hold a trustee's position - clearly she is not as responsible as those of us who do not suffer from mental health issues.

    She would gladly register voluntarily to limit her ability to borrow money. Would this be allowed under EU law?
This discussion has been closed.
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