A very interesting study from the United Kingdom reveals that 100,000 individuals across the pond attempt to commit suicide every year because they are mired in “heavy debt.” An additional 420,000 people think about ending their lives because of the despair they feel as a result of their debt burdens.
The study was managed by the National Centre for Social Research, Britain’s largest independent social research body.
Among the findings included in the report are:
- People with multiple debts are five times more likely to have tried to kill themselves than those with one debt.
- Almost a quarter (23%) of those who made a suicide attempt last year were in problem debt.
- The “double stigma” around debt and suicide means many of those who are struggling do not tell anyone how they are feeling or seek help.
Defining “heavy debt” as someone who has fallen “very behind” on their bills or have had a utility — such as gas, electricity, or water — turned off in the past year. Those individuals are three times more likely to have considered suicide then individuals who are not behind on their payments.
Interestingly enough, one remedy put forth by the chairman of the institute that conducted the study was to amend a law in the U.K. which requires organizations attempting to recover a debt to use formal language when communicating with debtors. Among the statements required under law are:
- “IF YOU DO NOT TAKE THE ACTION REQUIRED BY THIS NOTICE BEFORE THE DATE SHOWN THEN THE FURTHER ACTION SET OUT BELOW MAY BE TAKEN AGAINST YOU [OR A SURETY].”
- “IF YOU HAVE DIFFICULTY IN PAYING ANY SUM OWING UNDER THE AGREEMENT OR TAKING ANY OTHER ACTION REQUIRED BY THIS NOTICE, YOU CAN APPLY TO THE COURT WHICH MAY MAKE AN ORDER ALLOWING YOU OR ANY SURETY MORE TIME.”
“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,” said Martin Lewis. “The last thing those struggling with debts need is a bunch of near thuggish letters dropping through the letterbox, in a language you can’t understand, threatening you with court action.
“And with such a tight link between mental health and debt crisis, we know that many of the people receiving these letters are extremely vulnerable. These letters are destroying lives.”