Money 20102013A senior mental health nurse has urged insolvency professionals to be mental health aware during debt counselling and avoid suicide becoming the “elephant in the room”.

Nigel Crompton, mental health nurse and lead trainer of the Campaign for Awareness of Mental Illness Among Debtors (CAMIAD) said that debt professionals were invariably wary about raising the issue with their clients but urged them to do it because it can save lives.

Speaking at the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Scotland annual conference last week [13 November], Crompton said: "Our experience has shown… that most people will experience a great sense of relief if they are feeling suicidal and are asked about it in the right way.

"Almost a quarter [24% according to CAMIAD data] of people with common mental conditions report a debt problem and where their mental health disorder was severe, this rose to as many as almost one person in three. Debt also makes recovery from mental health conditions harder. That is why it’s so important that professionals are trained to be aware of these issues and know how to deal with them – it can save lives."

Also helping individuals to break the “negative spiral” of debt and mental health problems could help creditors to achieve their commercial objectives, he added.

Crompton, who is also director of service development at community interest company the Ki Group, which hosts CAMIAD, believes that 5,000 deaths from suicide per year in England could be reduced if professionals dealing with debtors – including insolvency practitioners, accountants, solicitors, bankers and academics – learned “to understand the impact on debt and of debt on mental health”.

As such, Crompton outlined that a key objective for CAMIAD initiative is to support professionals to “think through helpful responses” and be aware of the resources that are available to help people who feel that suicide is the only solution to their problems.

"These should include GPs, counselling and psychotherapy, primary care mental health services, employee assistance programmes, self-help resources, helplines and tailored intervention for people in debt," he concluded.

CAMIAD co-founder Ian Williamson, who is an insolvency practitioner with practices in Northwich, Cheshire and Blackpool, added: "As professionals we have the skills and training to find solutions to people’s financial problems but we need to be trained how to be aware of any serious underlying mental health issues and how to deal with them. It can save a life."

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