BACP has backed calls for the Government to change 34-year-old legislation around lenders’ letters that is contributing to the mental health issues of people in problem debt.

A new report by the Money and Mental Health Policy Institute found that more than 420,000 people in problem debt considered taking their own life in England each year.

The report, which is based on analysis of new national data from the Adult Psychiatric Morbidity Survey, also found that more than 100,000 people in debt attempt suicide each year and that people in problem debt are three times more likely to have considered suicide.

The research found that, while a range of issues can contribute to those suicidal feelings, one factor is the letters people in debt receive from lenders.

These are often intimidating, written in complex language and can feature threats of court action right at the top. Receiving these letters, sometimes daily from multiple lenders, can leave people feeling threatened, vulnerable and unable to see a solution to their situation.

Now Money and Mental Health, backed by a range of organisations including BACP, is campaigning for the Government to update the Consumer Credit Act 1974, which contains rules that dictates the content and language of many creditors’ letters to people in financial difficulty.

The campaign was launched today with new BACP vice-president, Luciana Berger MP, in attendance. It encourages people to sign a petition calling for the rules to be replaced with new guidelines to make them easier to understand, less threatening and more supportive.

'Near thuggish letters'

Martin Lewis, founder and chair of the Money and Mental Health Policy Institute, 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 you can’t understand, threatening you 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“We’re calling on the government to change the out-of-date legislation dictating the content of these letters.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 sign post people to help not hassle. That will save lives.”

Not alone

Martin Bell, BACP deputy head of policy and public affairs, said: “The link between mental health and debt is clear.

“People in debt can feel isolated, vulnerable and not know which way to turn, and those feelings can be exacerbated by threatening letters dropping on your mat.

“A simple change in the law around lenders’ letters could make a huge difference to the lives and the mental health of so many people, which is why BACP is supporting this campaign.

“And we would stress that people in debt are not alone. There is a lot of help available, from debt advice to mental health support, including from our trained BACP counsellors.”