Financial difficulties, big and small, add stress to many people’s lives – maybe everybody’s. When you’re already dealing with a lot, money worries can just bury you. At FirstSigns, we know how crushingly awful debt worries can be, and we know what it’s like to be at rock bottom. We know there are practical ways of dealing with stress, worries, and debt as well, without turning to hurt ourselves. But we know the temptation to rely on self-injury is strong, but we all know that debt doesn’t go away on it’s own.

It’s great to see that Money Saving Expert have worked with some leading mental well-being charities to produce a guide to debt. I half-met Martin Lewis (the proprietor of Money Saving Expert) and he’s genuinely got a lot of energy and insight into real-world finances. I can’t comment on all his advice, which goes over my head sometimes, but his principles are sensible and proven.

“I have never once seen a case of debt that can’t be solved. No matter how bad it seems, while it may not always be easy or quick, there is light at the end of the tunnel.

“When mental health is involved, sometimes just having the energy to deal with it is tough. And that’s what this guide is about: recognising that mental health and debts are a marriage made in hell, so we’ve easy practical steps you can take to get back on track. If you’re in debt crisis, don’t panic. The best thing to do is book a one-on-one session with a non-profit debt counsellor. Don’t worry, they’re there to help, not judge (see Chapter 2). If that’s too much for you right now, and you have a trusted friend, at least talk through this guide with them.

“Dealing with your debts may sound like a nightmare, but once you start it’s much easier and less stressful than leaving them to fester.”

Martin Lewis, of Money Saving Expert

  • CHAPTER 1: Getting started — analyse the problem

    There are two ways to deal with problem debt, and which is right for you depends on whether you’re in what we call debt crisis or just have worrying or large debts. This chapter shows the solutions that apply to each.

    It also covers the three things you need to know about debt, disability living allowance and tips for bipolar sufferers.

  • CHAPTER 2: Get free debt help

    For those in debt crisis who are consistently struggling with debts and unable to meet repayments, free personal help is invaluable. The aim is to find non-profit debt counselling, in other words, a one-on-one session with someone whose job is to help you, not to make money out of you.

    This chapter includes all the contacts you need, as well free online debt help tools and how to deal with emergency issues.

  • CHAPTER 3: Working with the banks

    Many people with mental illness are sceptical about telling banks about their condition. But there can be some definite advantages. Once a lender’s aware, it has to make adjustments.

    This chapter covers your rights and protections under the Lending Code, plus whether to declare your condition, with tips from Mental health charity Mind.

  • CHAPTER 4 – Approaches to treat mental distress

    If you are experiencing mental distress right now and feel unable even to contemplate sorting out your money, some of the suggestions in this section may help you begin your recovery. They are tips from experts in the field and from those who’ve experienced problems — and offer a number of different approaches.

  • CHAPTER 5 – How friends, family & carers can help

    Where to start if a friend or family member has mental health and debt problems? Dealing with debt issues can be stressful at the best of times; those struggling need support as they make their way through the steps to being debt free.

    This chapter explores how to support your friend or relation, from basic/joint bank accounts to power of attorney. You can also find out about carers’ benefits and discounts.

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