Debt and Wellbeing – Part One

By Debbie Taggio

Does a shiver of dread run along your spine each time the phone rings or there’s a knock at the door? The worries of debt and persistent creditor contact can result in stress, difficulty sleeping, extreme anxiety, muscle tension, chest pain and irritability. You might spend money you don’t have on things to make yourself feel better, then immediately regret it afterwards.

But what can you do to help you stay on top of things? Here are some practical things you can do to help:

  • Try not to ignore your creditors as this will only cause them to chase you. Contacting them and explaining your situation will give you some much needed breathing space to sort things out.
  • Financial services and firms, and utility companies are getting better at identifying and providing support for customers experiencing debt problems. Contact your service provider and let them know you need more support, they may have a specialist team who help customers in similar circumstances.
  • There are plenty of free tools that let you temporarily block websites for a period of time. This might help if there are things you like to buy when you are stressed or anxious.
  • Online shopping sites and browsers often remember card details to make it easier to make purchases. If you feel at risk of making impulsive spending choices, removing the auto-fill information can help.
  • Keep your wallet or purse out of your living room or bedroom. Having to get up to get your cards may allow you a little time to think. Do I really need this item? If not, try leaving it for half an hour to ‘cool off’.
  • If you have overspent and regret it, you can cancel or return items.
  • Consider making a budget to get back in control of your finances.

If you are experiencing extreme hardship, and don’t have enough money to pay for the basics such as food, rent, mortgage or utility bills, there are many places where you can get free financial help and information. A debt advisor will talk through your money worries and find ways to help you manage your debts and suggest solutions you may not know or thought about. Debt advisors can help even if you don’t think you have any spare money to deal with your debt. You can find further help and advice here:

Dealing with Creditors

It is understandable to be worried about contacting your creditors and if your financial situation has affected your mental wellbeing, lenders have a duty to take that into account, make adjustments and deal with you fairly. MoneySavingExpert has a free downloadable booklet supported by MIND, Rethink, CAPUK and others for people with mental health problems which you can download here: . Some things they must consider include:

  • They must give you a reasonable time to find information
  • Banks should keep any debt in-house. This means they should not sell the debt onto a credit agency who might chase you for the money owed.
  • They should refer you to specialist teams who are trained to understand how you are feeling.

All creditors should consider the Money Advice Liaison Group’s guidance which are agreed industry guidelines for how they should deal with you when they are aware of your mental health issue. It may help if you know what the guidelines are so you know how to expect to be treated if you choose to tell them about your condition.

You can also choose to add information about any mental health problems to your credit files in a notice of correction. This can be altered or removed whenever you want and will leave no footprint of any kind on your credit record. The downside, is that it means any future credit applications will have to be assessed manually. You can find out more about a notice of correction on Mental Health and Money website.

It’s human nature to try and bury your worries and hope for better days ahead, but where debt is concerned it is always better to deal with your financial challenges. Because, like proving a loaf, the longer you leave it, the bigger it will get. No debt problems are unsolvable. It might not be quick or easy, but there is always a route, you just need to find it.