Kate Langston, External Affairs Officer, Money and Mental Health

General election 2019: how the next government can help prevent suicide

15 November 2019

PLEASE NOTE: This blog contains information on the subject of suicide that some people may find distressing

Just over a week into the general election campaign and despite a slew of policy announcements from all the major parties, we’re yet to see the launch of the manifestos proper. Always striving to stay ahead of the game, Money and Mental Health published our own manifesto last week. It sets out five ways the next government can help break the link between mental health problems and debt, and calls on all parties to make this a priority now and in the future.

Over the coming weeks, we’ll be publishing a series of blogs, outlining our five key asks for the next government in more detail – starting today by taking a look at our recommendations to tackle the link between financial difficulty and suicide.

1. End threatening debt collection practices

Over 100,000 people in problem debt attempt suicide each year in England alone, yet financial difficulty is often overlooked as a contributing factor. While there are usually multiple reasons someone may decide to take their own life, our research shows that the intimidating letters people in debt receive from lenders can be a trigger for thoughts of suicide. This same group of people may also be receiving visits from bailiffs, further compounding their distress.

To help break this devastating cycle, we’re calling on the next government to crack down on aggressive collections behaviour, including introducing an independent regulator and complaints process for the bailiff industry, and putting a stop to debt threat letters from lenders. (You can find out more about both of these recommendations in our recent World Suicide Prevention Day blog here).

2. Make financial difficulty a key consideration in the next National Suicide Prevention Strategy.

The National Suicide Prevention Strategy sets out cross-government plans to try and reduce suicide rates in England, and support those bereaved or affected by suicide. While the current strategy does consider economic circumstances as a potential risk factor for suicide, it does so only in very general terms, with little focus on financial difficulty as a specific issue.

The existing strategy is due to elapse next year, so we’re urging the next government to publish a new strategy that makes financial difficulty a key consideration. This includes exploring the role that financial services firms, regulators, local authorities and other public services could play in tackling these issues.

As the election campaign ramps up, we’ll be working hard to get money and mental health on the political agenda. You can help us by sharing our manifesto on social media, and raising these issues with your local parliamentary candidates. You can find a useful guide on how to write to local candidates about our manifesto here.