Coping with Debt

Jerry Kennard Health Pro
  • If the current financial crisis tells us anything, it's that anyone can get into debt. Despite this, the sad fact remains that people with mental health problems are up to three times more likely to find themselves in debt. There are a number of reasons. Sometimes work ends because illness starts. Sometimes low incomes are so inflexible that once a debt begins it's hard to shake off. Sometimes illness itself is the trigger for debt accumulation, as may happen with bipolar disorder.


    The writer and author Clare Allan, recently wrote a short newspaper column about her experience of instant debt accumulation. Clare described the appeal of credit cards as, "an immediate, reliable and less stigmatizing option than an application for disability benefits, especially for someone who may not consider themselves to have a mental health problem." Clare accepted a variety of credit card offers at the same time and, during a three day binge of internet shopping, accumulated over $16,000 of debt.

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    Stories like this are all too common. Credit can be found easily and, coupled with mental health problems, can quickly lead to debt. In turn, coping both with debt and mental ill health becomes a vicious cycle that is hard to resolve.


    During a financial downturn one of the first services to be hit is mental health. This of course is the time when services are often most needed, but finding a specialist who can help with debt problems is often needed well before mental health specialists get involved. In fact solving a debt crisis may arguably avoid the need for mental health services at all.


    If you are in debt and you are looking for ways to deal with this, there are some simple steps you can take. Take a look at the debts you have and sort them into priority and non-priority categories. Priority debts will be those which, if you don't do something very quickly, will trigger immediate legal action, or loss of some vital services to your home and family. Of course if you can find someone to help with this task, now is the time to use them, especially if they have skills in debt relief negotiation. Do be very cautious about companies or individuals who promote themselves as debt consolidation agencies or debt counselors. Often, these are little more than loan companies who charge a hefty fee for their services.


    If you want to try to manage the situation yourself the key is not to panic and to be honest in your dealings with creditors. If you've just been on a spending spree, consider returning products and getting a financial refund.


    Most reputable companies are used to working with people who have difficulties paying. Some even employ their own debt advisors who can be helpful. Again, be a little careful as their main priority may not be your overall welfare. On the whole, companies would rather negotiate a deal with you than to take your debt to court - a costly business. So, begin the process of debt repayment by contacting the people on your priority list. You may also find that a letter from your doctor confirming a health problem can help. Be straight forward and honest but show willingness to find a solution to the problem. Unless your case is exceptional you should never expect the company to simply write off your debt.


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    The worst thing anyone can do with debt is to borrow more money in order to pay the bills. This is a short term solution and one that is bound to worsen over time. Help and advice is on the web. Although I can't personally endorse these sites you might like to check out, The National Foundation for Credit Counseling, Consumer Credit Counseling Services.

Published On: January 08, 2009