The report was launched at an event this morning attended by Minister for Mental Health Jackie Doyle-Price and Sarah McKenzie, who is head of consumer strategy and policy at the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA). It is based on analysis of new data from the Adult Psychiatric Morbidity Survey, which is commissioned by the NHS and funded by the Government. It reveals:
- Over 420,000 people in problem debt considered taking their own life in England last year.
- More than 100,000 people in debt actually attempt suicide each year.
- People in problem debt are three times more likely to have considered suicide than people not in problem debt.
The Money and Mental Health Policy Institute, set up by MSE founder Martin Lewis, defines problem debt as falling seriously behind on payments or having utilities disconnected in the past year.
Its report highlights a number of ways in which people in this circumstance can be put at risk of becoming suicidal – for example, if they’re sent intimidating letters from a lender.
The charity is calling on the Government to update the Consumer Credit Act 1974, which sets out the rules that dictate the content and language of many creditors’ letters to people in financial difficulty. It hopes to bring an end to the use of intimidating and inaccessible language and content in lenders’ letters.
The FCA is currently reviewing the Consumer Credit Act, and must have completed its work by April next year.
Martin: ‘The law causes tragedy – please sign the petition for change’
Martin Lewis, founder and chair of the MMHPI and MoneySavingExpert.com, is urging people to sign the petition for change.
He said: “The fact a law set decades ago doesn’t just allow companies to use intimidating language when collecting debt, but near forces them to do so, causes tragedy.
“The last thing those struggling with debts need is a bunch of near-thuggish letters dropping through the letterbox, in a language they can’t understand, threatening them with court action. And with such a tight link between mental health and debt crisis, we know many of the people receiving these letters are extremely vulnerable.
“Thankfully, attitudes to mental health have come a long way in the last forty years, and it’s time the legislation followed it. These letters are destroying lives, but it doesn’t have to be like this.
“We’re calling on the Government to change the out-of-date legislation dictating the content of these letters. In particular, new rules are needed to make the language easier to understand, and to prominently signpost people to help, not hassle. That will save lives. I do hope people will sign the petition to ensure the message is heard.”
At the launch of the report this morning, Martin also urged attendees to sign the petition. You can see him speaking in the video below: