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Workshop aims to cut debt related suicide

An event is taking place in Stoke on Trent this week, aimed at reducing the number of debt related suicides in the city.

The Campaign for Awareness of Mental Illness Amongst Debtors has organised tomorrow's workshop at the North Staffordshire Medical Institute to help professionals spot the warning signs.


The course is designed for those who have direct contact with people with overwhelming debt such as accountants, solicitors, lecturers, municipal officers, social and welfare work 

The number of suicides in the region has risen sharply over the past year due to a major degree, it is believed, to the recession and the increase in personal financial problems. 

Figures released by North Staffordshire coroner Ian Smith show that there were 51 suicides during 2012 (39 male and 12 female) compared with 25 for the whole of previous year (2011), 36 in 2010 and 21 in 2009.   

Up to March 25th this year there have been 11 (10 male and one female).

Diane Dunion from Dunion and Co, who is a steering group member of the Campaign, says:  "If more professional dealing with debtors were able to recognise the critical tell-tale signs of mental distress among their client and learn how to signpost them on for appropriate help and treatment, many of these suicides could hopefully be prevented. 

"In the course of my work I see people who have hit rock bottom and who, understandably, can be very emotional and may be even suicidal.  But if this is brought out into the open in the appropriate way, it can bring about immense relief and a resolution to both their emotional and financial problems” 

Campaign founder and insolvency practitioner Ian Williamson, said: "This is a problem that is relevant in all areas of the country and we are encouraging professionals who come into contact with people in debt to attend one of these courses, run by experienced health professionals, so that they can recognise the issues.” 

Simon Harris, chief executive of the Stoke-on-Trent Citizens’ Advice Bureau, which is one of the largest in the UK dealing with some 70,000 enquiries a year, said there was "lots of evidence to suggest strong links between debt and mental health.”

He said that in the present economic climate it was "no surprise” to see the huge rise is the number of suicides recorded by the coroner. 

The intensive one-day training workshop will be led by mental health specialist, Wayne Connor-Scahill, service development manager for Cheshire and Wirral Partnership NHS Foundation Trust. Over a 10-year period he worked in London with homeless services and mental health. 

He said:  "The causes of mental illness are varied as are the factors leading to debt. Distress, confusion, hopelessness, desperation, suicide and the need for support are symptomatic of both. 

"This course is designed specifically to help those with no mental health training to identify if there any such issues affecting their clients and, if so, how to counsel them and signpost them on for the relevant help and treatment. In this way we are confident that it will play a significant role in helping to reduce debt-related suicides.”

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