On 10 February 2021 Shoosmiths hosted a webinar on the topic of “Debt and Mental Health” presented by Clare Grant, the Assistant Director of Services at Solent Mind charity. This was an opportunity to highlight the excellent work the charity does to support people with mental health issues but also to offer advice to Shoosmiths’ Regulated Recoveries’ staff who work on the front line taking calls from our clients’ customers who are often in distress.
The webinar was the latest in a series of talks to provide additional support for the specially trained vulnerability “Go-To” people in Regulated Recoveries. These are key members of the Regulated Recoveries teams who support the wider team when interacting specifically with vulnerable customers and ensuring that sensitive information is retained by Shoosmiths and our clients in compliance with the GDPR.
Solent Mind highlighted some statistics around debt and mental health. These include:-
- 46% of people experiencing problem debt also have a mental health issue;
- someone with a mental health issue is 3.5 times more likely to experience problems with debt;
- 54% of people with a mental health issue report difficulties in using the telephone to communicate; and
- 36% of people suffering with a mental health issue do not have a specific diagnosis and many of these people may not even realise they have a problem.
These statistics demonstrate how vital it is for front line staff speaking with customers experiencing problems with debt to have an understanding of mental health issues. This enables staff to identify any concerns and have meaningful conversations to ensure an outcome in both our client and their customer’s best interests.
The talk focused on practical tips for staff to use when speaking with someone who they suspect may have a mental health issue or someone who discloses such an issue. These tips include:-
- Treat the person as an individual. Take the time to talk to the person, ask genuine questions and actually listen to the responses;
- Don’t be afraid to ask direct questions. Research shows that someone suffering from a mental health issue is far more likely to honestly answer a question about their mental health than to start a conversation on their own;
- Acknowledge and recognise the person on a human level. Show empathy; and
- Try to provide small, tangible steps that the person can follow to take control of a situation
An area of significant concern for staff was when someone disclosed experiencing suicidal thoughts and how to cope in this situation. Solent Mind gave specific advice on this issue, which sadly is something “Go To” people are trained to deal with. This advice has led to a change in our processes when dealing with suicide threats to ensure we continue to deal with difficult situations in the most effective manner.
The talk raised awareness of mental health which is an issue affecting so many people in the current climate. The staff gave some excellent feedback and took away many practical tips that will help them to do their job but also to support themselves and others.
Solent Mind has a range of services to assist people who are experiencing mental health issues. This includes information and support on their website www.solentmind.org.uk, a telephone number 023 8017 9049 to call if you want to speak with someone and a crisis centre for the most urgent and serious mental health emergencies. They are available to support anyone experiencing difficulty with their mental health or simply to listen and have a chat.
If you know an organisation or charity that provides support to or works with vulnerable people and would like to raise awareness of the services you offer or a particular topic of interest in relation to debt recovery then please contact us. We are always looking for guest speakers to inform and enhance the specialist vulnerability services we offer.