Our policy briefing on financial hardship shows the importance of joining up mental health and money support
The connection between financial hardship, mental health and suicide is not a new issue. But recent economic events, such as the cost of living crisis mean more people are struggling to make ends meet.
We’ve seen the impact through Samaritans’ listening service, where we’ve provided emotional support to people impacted by the cost of living crisis.
We asked 170 Samaritans volunteers about the calls for help they had responded to where financial hardship was discussed.
of the volunteers who responded to our survey had supported callers worried about paying their essential bills
of volunteers told us about people calling for help who had cut back on things which are really important for their wellbeing
of volunteers had spoken to callers who had contacted Samaritans because they couldn’t afford to access other support
What we heard from volunteers shows the importance of people not only being able to afford the essentials like heating and eating, but having enough money to live healthy, happy lives with proper support in place.
- The Government needs to join up support for money and mental health, so that everyone seeking financial help is offered help with their mental health, and everyone seeking help with their mental health is offered financial help if they need it.
- Frontline workers in public services supporting people with their money like debt advisors, job centres, the social security system or housing support need to be trained to identify and support people at risk of suicide, so people can get help no matter what problem they are facing.
- The Breathing Space mental health scheme gives people experiencing mental ill health a break from debt. This should be expanded to more people receiving healthcare for their mental health.
Our 2023 report shares insights from experience on the topic of economic disadvantage, suicide and self-harm
With our partners in the Suicide Prevention Consortium, we have been exploring the relationship between economic disadvantage, suicide risk and self-harm in people’s own words.
We heard about experiences of economic disadvantage and how they relate to suicide, self-harm and bereavement by suicide. People told us about what they have found helpful, including a sense of community belonging, as well as changes they would like to see. Together with people with lived experience we developed recommendations that focus on creating a more human and person-centered whole system approach. We also heard of a need for a system that is more aware of mental health issues and the economic challenges people face.
Three key changes we would like to see:
- Better understanding in health services of self-harm and suicide risk. People expressed that their attitudes and beliefs nor the complexities around suicide and self-harm were consistently taken into consideration as part of their care within the health system.
- Suicide and self-harm awareness training within social security systems. People shared that their experiences of engaging with the benefits system were particularly difficult when they were in distress. There is an urgent need for increased understanding of self-harm and suicide by social security providers and for them to take an approach that is based on believing people’s experiences of distress and compassion.
- Comprehensive funding and resources are needed for community based support. People shared the importance of inclusive support within their local areas, but expressed a lack of availability of appropriate support for them. They also highlighted the role of meaningful relationships as key protective factors for staying well and the need to increase opportunities to develop these.
Read more in our report: Insights from experience: economic disadvantage, suicide and self-harm
Our 2017 report finds that deprivation, debt and inequality can increase suicide risk.
People living in the most disadvantaged communities face the highest risk of dying by suicide. We worked with leading academics to understand why.
Our report, Dying from Inequality, showed that financial instability and poverty can increase suicide risk. Suicide is a major inequality issue.
We found that income and unmanageable debt, unemployment, poor housing conditions, and other socioeconomic factors all contribute to high suicide rates.
Tackling inequality should be central to suicide prevention and support should be targeted to the poorest groups who are likely to need it most.
We can all play a part in preventing suicide and reducing inequality, but governments must take the lead by:
- Ensuring national suicide prevention strategies target their efforts to the most vulnerable people and places, to reach people at the highest risk and reduce health inequalities.
- Embedding suicide prevention across government policy, specifically housing, welfare and economic planning, to improve support for the most vulnerable people.
- Supporting suicide awareness training programmes for frontline services that support people with financial issues. This would ensure practitioners have the skills they need to recognise, understand and respond to individuals who may be in distress.
Read more in our report Dying from Inequality.
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