Money and mental health – after the pandemic
World Mental Health Day 2021 is focusing on the efforts made to combat the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. The World Health Organization says there is cause for optimism as countries across the world innovate. At Intrum we know that money and mental health are intricately connected.
Mental health concerns and debt go in hand in hand, with each often exacerbated by the other. However, the global pandemic has not had an equal impact on the world’s citizens.
Rising bills damaging Europeans’ wellbeing
While some found themselves better off financially – with unchanging salaries, rising house prices and fewer leisure and travel opportunities, many others have struggled with financial uncertainty. This has an effect on their mental health.
Mental health problems and debt are linked. Debt can increase the risk of mental health problems. And mental health problems can increase the risk of getting into debt.Chris Fitch, Vulnerability Lead, Money Advice Trust | Research Fellow, University of Bristol, UK
In Intrum’s latest European Consumer Payment Report, almost half of those surveyed (47%) said their concerns about rising bills were having a negative effect on their general wellbeing. When you take income into effect, that figure is even more pronounced.
Chris Fitch, a UK expert in vulnerability and debt, says it is clear that the two problems reinforce each other: “Half of people in problem debt have a mental health problem. Nearly 90% of people in problem debt say their financial situation makes their mental health problems worse.”
He adds: “Furthermore, the more debts people have, the greater the chance of having a mental health problem. People with two separate debts, for example, had a two-fold increase in mental health problems. Those with six or more separate debts had a four-fold increase.”
47% are more concerned than their financial wellbeing than ever and 56% worry that they won’t be able to afford a comfortable retirement. 29% say their relationship would be better if they and their partner were better at managing money.Insights from Intrum's European Consumer Payment Report 2020
“The COVID-19 pandemic has placed many households under enormous financial stress – and this would have had an impact on mental health. However, the most significant impact may be become evident as government support programmes come to an end, as temporary increases in welfare benefits are rolled back, and as banks end payment deferral schemes,” says Fitch.
At Intrum, we train our customer service agents carefully
It is crucial to consider mental health during the collections experience. Well-trained customer service representatives can spot vulnerabilities and signpost individuals to help and advice.
At Intrum, we actively train our customer service agents in handling mental health when speaking to customers in difficult financial situations. They use multiple protocols to identify and support customers. These include BRUCE, IDEA, TEXAS and BLAKE*, which help identify red flags for mental health vulnerability; guide them when talking to the customer about those issues; ensure consent is given to store sensitive information; and effectively signpost the customer to further help.
The customer service agent’s skills in using these protocols are perfected and assessed through role play in a safe training environment before speaking with real customers.
Our customer service agents can also reduce the strain of indebtedness by assessing a customer’s financial situation before agreeing a suitable payment plan that they can sustain in the long term – reducing their fears and worries over their financial situation by tackling it in a manageable way.
Our advice is to seek help early
“Intrum’s core business is helping people become debt free, and our recommendation is to get in touch with us as early as possible, so that we can solve the case together,” says Pia Bach Jensen, Intrum’s Group Operations Director. “Sound finances are the foundation of good quality of life. They create opportunities for people to achieve their goals and fulfil their dreams.”
*About our staff trainings:
• BRUCE (Behaviour, Remembering, Understanding, Communication, Evaluation) designed to help identify red flags with customer’s who are experiencing a mental health capacity limitation
• IDEA (Impact, Duration, Experiences, Assistance) for when talking to a customer about their vulnerability
• TEXAS (Thank the customer, Explain how this information will be used, eXplicit consent requested to store information, Ask key questions, Signpost to internal/external support) to support the request of recording the customer’s sensitive health information, ensuring adherence to data protection laws and regulation
• BLAKE (Breathe to focus, Listen, Ask to discover, Keep safe from harm, End with a summary) design to guide customer service agents when the customer mentions taking their own life
- Intrum European Consumer Payment Report 2020
- www.moneyadvicetrust.org.uk/vulnerability and www.mentalhealthandmoneyadvice.org/en/
- Adult Psychiatric Morbidity Survey (2014)
- Holkar M and Mackenzie P. Money on Your Mind. Money and Mental Health Policy Institute. 2016. Derived from UK-wide survey of 5,500 people with lived experience of mental health problems.
- Jenkins R, Bhugra D, Bebbington P, Brugha T, Farrell M, Coid J et al. Debt, income and mental disorder in the general population. Psychol Med 2008; 38: 1485-1494.