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The Royal College of Psychiatrists Improving the lives of people with mental illness

New ‘debt first aid’ advice for health and social care professionals

Embargoed until 30 April 2009

As the economic crisis deepens, the Royal College of Psychiatrists and Rethink are sending updated ‘debt first aid’ advice to 100,000 health and social care professionals.

The Final Demand guidance offers essential advice to GPs, social workers, mental health nurses and other allied health professionals on supporting patients with debt and mental health problems. It cites a shocking new statistic, due to be published in the Journal of Public Health, showing one in two adults with debts also has a mental health problem.

Professor Dinesh Bhugra, president of the Royal College of Psychiatrists, said: “We know that the more debts people accumulate, the more likely they are to have a mental health problem. Over the last few months, the College has been contacted by a growing number people concerned about their financial situation, so it is extremely timely that we are sending out this resource.”

Mental health and social care professionals frequently encounter patients with debts. However, research shows that many are reluctant to intervene because they lack the appropriate knowledge.

Professor Bhugra said: “This 'debt first aid' kit will allow professionals to identify problems before they become crises, and show them how to work with agencies such as Citizens Advice. It won't expect professionals to turn into debt experts, but it will show how they can make big differences by knowing and doing small things".

In the guidance Gita, who became depressed when her family got into serious financial difficulty, talks openly about how her support worker helped her get out of debt:

“I had a breakdown. I got depressed in a way I hadn’t been for 17 years and was put back on medication. In the middle of this, I mentioned my problems to a key worker at the day centre. She was not a ‘debt expert’, but encouraged me to get debt counselling. It was the first time I received that kind of advice and it was a major turning point.”

Final Demand – Debt and Mental Health has been funded by the Financial Services Authority (FSA), and produced in partnership with Rethink and other health and social care organisations.

Paul Corry, director of public affairs at Rethink, said: “We know that financial difficulties can trigger or exacerbate mental illness. And mental illness itself can increase someone’s chances of getting into debt. For example, some people may lose their jobs suddenly because of their illness. Others living on state benefits have no money to cover one off costs. The current recession can only make matters worse for these vulnerable people.”

Mr Corry added: “It is crucial that every GP, adult social worker and mental health nurse knows how to talk about debt and make sure people with mental illness get the help they need to prevent a problem turning into a crisis. This guide offers practical and straightforward advice on how to do just that.”

Chris Pond, Director of Financial Capability at the FSA, said: “Health and Social Care professionals often find themselves at the front line in helping people struggling with interlocking mental health and debt problems. Final Demand will help them understand the practical and effective steps they can take to help clients and the FSA welcomes this opportunity to work with the College Research and Training Unit and to support the publication of this booklet, which could help some of the most vulnerable and financially excluded people.”

Copies of Final Demand are being distributed in the British Journal of General Practice, the British Journal of Psychiatry, Community Care and Mental Health Practice. The guidance is also freely available on the Royal College of Psychiatrists’ website.

For further information, please contact:
Sarah Nevins
Press & Social Media Officer
Telephone: 020 3701 2543
Claire McLoughlin
Media & Communications Manager 
Telephone: 020 3701 2544
Out of hours contact number: 07860 755896



Download Final Demand from the Royal College of Psychiatrists’ website: Printed copies are available from the College’s Leaflets Department. Tel: 020 7235 2351 ext. 259. Email:


Note to editors:

Final Demand: Debt and Mental Health has been written by the Royal College of Psychiatrists and Rethink, and funded by the Financial Services Authority (FSA). It has been produced in partnership with: Advice Northern Ireland, British Association of Social Workers, British Psychological Society, Citizens Advice Bureau, Citizens Advice Scotland, Consumer Credit Counselling Service, Institute of Money Advisers, Institute of Psychiatry, Mind, Money Advice Trust, Royal College of General Practitioners, and Royal College of Nursing.


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