Mental Health and debt - CAP is here to help

This blog was written by Andrew Whitaker, the Christians Against Poverty (CAP) Regional Leader for London. With a background in finance and a passion for people, Andrew wants to see everyone across London get the chance to be free of the burden of debt.

Christians Against Poverty (CAP) is a UK charity determined to reduce UK poverty by delivering debt counselling, money management, job clubs, life skills groups and support for people breaking life controlling habits.

Throughout the pandemic, we’ve seen a worrying rise in poor mental health. As research by Mind[1] shows, this has been intensified for people with a pre-existing mental health issue. Some of the challenges of living through a global pandemic, including local and national lockdowns, low or reduced incomes, job insecurity and problem debt, alongside poor mental health, have created a toxic combination.

Anxiety is one of the most common mental health problems experienced. According to a recent ONS report[2], people with concerns about finances reported much higher levels of anxiety. And, with financial problems and problem debt increasing during the pandemic, the scale of the problem is evident.

The stress of debt coupled with anxiety can be so destructive. It affects family relationships, both physical and mental health, and can be very isolating. It can feel like you have nowhere to turn, but there is a solution – right on your doorstep.

What are the causes of debt?

Debt can be caused by many different factors, such as ill health, bereavement, relationship breakdown or low income. The pandemic has also pushed many Londoners into debt through a reduction in working hours or income, which has escalated situations where people are already struggling.

Often, debt can be a symptom of poor mental health so, as Christians Against Poverty (CAP) workers, we make sure that we focus on building positive relationships to help people make and achieve their goals. Through this holistic support, we see many of our clients have their mental health transformed as they begin to feel more positive and access further help and support that they need. All of CAP’s support is completely free of charge and, importantly, completely free of judgement.

What do our clients have to say?

Steven said, “It was tough over the time, dealing with my debts. My mental health was up and down but with Dave’s (CAP debt coach) support now I’m debt free! I started working more on my life and getting my mental health better. Now I don’t get any more suicidal thoughts and I’ve started getting my life back. So with the help from Dave and CAP, I’m now debt free and having a better life.”

Another client, Christina, was in a bad place financially and mentally but, with CAP’s help has now gone debt free and started helping other people as a volunteer. When she became debt free, she said, “The penny is now just dropping that I haven’t got that sickening worry of debt over me any more. I’d say to anyone thinking about contacting CAP, do it! They’ll help with moral support, 150%! You don’t need to suffer. Now I’m a befriender (CAP volunteer visiting others in debt). It’s been a very hard journey – but it’s been amazing as well. I wouldn’t want to see anyone else go through suffering from worrying about debt as they don’t have to.”

As the Regional Leader for Christians Against Poverty (CAP) in London, I’m privileged and humbled to be able to lead a team of 50 frontline workers meeting and supporting people across London. This incredible team, along with numerous volunteers like Christina and Steven, helps people with unmanageable debts, as well as teaching budgeting skills, the importance of developing good habits and running job clubs.

Top tips for dealing with debt

Over my time working for CAP and helping people across this city, I’ve seen that the most important things you can do are:

● Get help as early as possible – it makes a big difference. In less than six minutes, you can call our CAP Freephone number (0800 328 0006) and book an appointment with one of our friendly team. Alongside CAP, there are also lots of other organisations that offer free debt advice, such as StepChange and the Money Advice Service.

● Speak up. If you’re struggling and don’t know where to turn, speak to your local GP. Your doctor can suggest a range of strategies to help.

● Seek help from organisations like Good Thinking where you’ll find a range of guides and helpful resources, including podcasts with great tips from people who’ve been helped.

If you know things are out of control and you’re stressed, missing meals or sleep, please give CAP a call and let us help you get your life back on track. Book an appointment with CAP by calling Freephone 0800 328 0006 or visit the CAP website.

A message from us

Good Thinking provides a range of resources to support your mental health, including NHS-approved wellbeing apps, expert advice and podcasts. If you’re feeling anxious, stressed or sad, you might find the following useful:

Mental Health and debt (podcast)

Coping with loss of work (podcast)

Five ways to good mental wellbeing (article)

How to deal with job and financial uncertainty (article)

How to deal with stress (article)

If you need urgent mental health support, please contact your local NHS 24/7 helpline or a support organisation, such as Shout (text 85258) or Samaritans (call 116 123). You’re not alone – there is lots of help available.

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