Stigma Of Debt: Is It Still A Thing?
You may recently have heard of the case of Jerome Rogers, the 21-year-old who took his own life over the inability to repay his debts, (recently reported on the BBC’s Killed By My Debt). It started with two £65 traffic fines, which the inability to repay quickly led to further debts. The pressure of this eventually led to him taking his own life. And while no one is arguing that this is a tragic case, sadly it is not unique.
The majority people who are in debt get into it through circumstances beyond their control; ill health, loss of a job, breakdown of a relationship. This then leads to a struggle to repay what you have got used to paying, and then the spiral of debt starts; The repayments getting greater each month until there is no way you can even repay the minimum amount. Despite the common view that people in debt should simply “spend less”, overspending on your credit cards ‘just for fun’ is very rarely the cause. And anyone can find themselves struggling to meet their financial repayments if the circumstances are right.
Consumer debt has risen by almost 10% in the past year, with unsecured consumer credit now over £200 BILLION! This means that the average adult in the UK is more than £600 in debt. Obviously, whilst this doesn’t mean that everybody in the UK is in debt, it certainly means that there are a lot more people struggling than you may think. So, knowing that debt isn’t a problem unique to you, why does it still have such a stigma attached to it?
80% Of People Suffer in Silence
Money Advice Service recently released a statistic that stated that just 20% of people struggling with debt actually reach out and talk to someone about getting some help. This leaves a staggering 80% of people who are quietly struggling, which can lead to situations like Jerome’s. This can only be because they still believe there is some kind of stigma, and they feel ashamed or embarrassed by their struggles. Debt Assist UK deal with many people struggling with their finances, and I believe that the number-one reason people are still ashamed to be in debt is due to the practices of the creditors and those they employ to chase the debts; the lenders can be offhand or even aggressive, and often make assumptions about the people in debt. The mass media doesn’t help either, often describing people in debt as ‘greedy’, ‘not thinking of the consequences of their actions’, ‘unable to manage their money properly’, ‘going on too many holidays’, ‘buying all the latest fashions’.
Anybody that stops to think for even ten seconds knows that this is simply not true, there are many reasons people are in debt, and it is rarely their own fault, and no one plans to get into unpayable debt. Most people must turn to credit at some point in their lives and a simple change in circumstances can make the difference between being able to repay the debt, and not. Divorce, loss of income, an expected bonus not being paid, or even an emergency vet bill or the need to buy a new oven, boiler, or refrigerator. All of these can throw off any financial plans you may have previously made. Living within your means, planning and sticking to a budget, is something that everyone must do at some point in their lives.
If you want to see just how many people are struggling financially, view the Guardian’s average-debt map, although most will never admit it, people are in debt everywhere and from all walks of life. And from our experience, those that hide it the most behind their big TVs and designer clothes, often tend to be the ones most in debt!
Struggling with your finances can be an extremely stressful time, and the stigma attached to debt certainly doesn’t help. However, rather than encouraging people to stay out of debt what this stigma actually does is stop people getting the help they need!
Ironically, there is no stigma in borrowing money. When was the last time you saw someone turn their nose up at someone because they announced they took out a loan, or they were in their overdraft?
A Problem Shared…
If you are feeling at all stressed, debt related or not, it always help to talk to someone, whether this is a partner (the amount of people who haven’t told their partner about their debt troubles is staggering), friends, or family members. Or call us. Here at Debt Assist UK we understand that everyone’s situation is different and completely personal to themselves. This is why our friendly advisers take the time to properly understand your situation before suggesting the correct solution for your particular set of circumstances. You won’t get pity and you won’t get charity. However, you will get an understanding pair of ears and the chance to talk to somebody with the knowledge and experience to offer realistic help and advice to get you out of your financial troubles.
Almost fifty percent of people who are struggling with debt consider suicide. If you are feeling suicidal then talk to someone immediately, you won’t be judged and talking really can help.
Some of the more common symptoms of debt stress include feeling panicky, overwhelmed, upset, disappointed and even physically and mentally exhausted (although, ironically, it often leads to loss of sleep). Research by MoneySuperMarket found that over half of the adults questioned are regularly worried about their finances. Of this, 65% of 18-34-year-olds state that they are constantly worried about their finances, so you are definitely not the only one!
If you are suffering from debt-related stress, or any of the symptoms, then please consider going to see your doctor. They can help. They may also put you in touch with other people who can help, such as mental health charities Mind or SANE.
Talk To Someone – Anyone
If you don’t want to talk to a stranger, let your family and friends know how you are feeling, it’s not easy but they may be able to offer support. If you want someone between a complete stranger and your closest friends, your GP will also listen to any problems you are having, just ask for an emergency appointment.
Debt is never a reason to end your life. There are options out there. Contact Debt Assist UK now and talk to someone who can help.
- Samaritans – For Everyone – 116 123
- Campaign Against Living Miserably – For Men – 0800 585858
- Papyrus – Under 35 Year Olds – 0800 068 41 41
What To Do Next?
We know from experience that many people contact us several times before admitting they need our help. These people contact us then get scared when we call back and come up with many different reasons why they definitely didn’t fill out our contact form, and they definitely don’t require debt help. Then a few months later, they find themselves in further debt and they contact us again for help. This time they have no option but to talk to us and they find that it’s not so difficult after all, and that it actually helps and wish they had talked to us the first time.
You have read this far, so you don’t need the sales pitch. You won’t need to unblock all of the phone numbers and you still don’t need to answer unknown number calls. But be realistic, the problem won’t go away by simply ignoring it, and all you are doing in the mean-time is getting into further debt. Open all the letters you have been avoiding (if you still have them hidden away somewhere), you need to know exactly what you owe and who you owe it to. Then get on the phone to us (0800 029 3992). We will listen to your problem and then suggest a solution. You have no obligation to use our services and we may even suggest using different companies if we believe it will be in your best interest. Everything will be fully explained to you before you agree to anything, and even then you get a ‘cooling off’ period. You can begin to relax. We will do all of the hard work. You will begin to repay your debts, your creditors will stop chasing you, and you can stop worrying every time your phone rings or there’s an unexpected knock at the door.
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