MARTIN Lewis has called on the government to do more to stop debt collectors “bombarding” vulnerable Brits.
The report was published today by the Money and Mental Health Policy Institute, a charity chaired and founded by Martin.
It found that of 2,049 adults in the UK, one in six have experienced suicidal thoughts in the past nine months due to rising costs.
The study also found that people being contacted and “threatened” by creditors has added to the issue.
A separate in-depth survey by the charity shows the distressing impact that receiving calls, letters and messages from creditors and debt collectors can have.
Martin said: “The link between serious financial problems and suicidal thoughts is long established.
“So it’s no surprise that the cost of living crisis, with bills hugely increasing, on the back of the pandemic is causing some people growing distress.
“Yet the scale of this distress is particularly worrying, and it leaves a serious concern about the impact on the number of people who may consider taking their own lives.”
Vulnerable Brits told the charity that the messages can leave them feeling bombarded, bullied and unable to see a way out of their situation.
For some people, it is contributing to them becoming suicidal.
One man called Steven who took part in the survey described how he received seven contacts in seven hours from a single debt collection agency on one day last month.
This included two text messages, two emails, a letter and two phone calls.
Steven said he was left “feeling harassed and persecuted”.
He said: “The sheer number of contacts scares me, it’s almost as if they are threatening and bullying me into compliance.
“They have me at the point of not answering calls and removing my SIM so they can’t contact me.
“I am becoming more reclusive as a result.”
The Money and Mental Health’s research shows debt collectors can get away with this sort of “bombarding”, because there are no firm legal rules in the UK limiting how often they can contact people about overdue bills.
There’s some guidance from the Financial Conduct Authority, which regulates financial services in the UK.
And, while it does state that creditors and debt collectors should not contact people “at unreasonable intervals”, it doesn’t say how often is too much.
Martin has called for better protections to be put in place that change how and how often debt collectors can contact you.
He said: “We know that being bombarded with letters, calls and threats of court action from debt collectors can lead people to feel hopeless, helpless and even contribute to people becoming suicidal.
“So the sooner there are specific protections put in place to limit how and how often debt collectors can contact people about missed payments the better – even the bastion of free markets, the USA, has tighter rules on that than we do.”
He said the government needs to ensure that it has a “serious package of measures” to tackle the current suicide risk.
How can I get debt help?
If you’re struggling with debt, the best thing to do is seek help and not bury your head in the sand.
Local organisations may also be able to provide support in your area.
Citizens Advice is a national organisation with more than 20,000 volunteers who can help with everything from finding out what benefits you’re entitled to, to claiming compensation for a cancelled flight.
You can find your nearest branch using the tool on its website, or you can contact them by phone on 0800 133 8848.
National Debtline is a charity run offering free and confidential advice to people in England, Wales and Scotland.
You can contact it online or over the phone on 0808 808 4000, between 9am and 8pm Monday to Friday, and 9.30am to 1pm on Saturdays.
National Debtline also recommends contacting organisations such as Mind, Samaritans and Anxiety UK if debt worries are affecting your mental health.
For more information on how to get help and who to speak to see our full list of support available.