Campaign for Awareness of Mental Illness Among Debtors

The Campaign for Awareness of Mental Illness Among Debtors (CAMIAD) is a nationwide initiative dedicated to equipping professionals who have direct contact with debtors with the skills to recognise if they have any underlying mental health issues and could, in the more severe cases, be having suicidal thoughts.

It additionally provides training in the most effective ways of signposting them on for the appropriate help, counselling or treatment. The training is based on one day seminars for 8-18 delegates delivered by mental health professionals who have a specialist knowledge of debt and suicide. The campaign’s key objective is to reduce the number of debt-related suicides and severe mental breakdowns linked to debt. The course was conceived by former medical writer and journalist Peter Harris (former Health Correspondent of the Manchester Evening News) and was developed by senior mental health nurse Nigel Crompton, the Head of Service Development and Marketing with the Cheshire and Wirral Partnership NHS Foundation Trust. He is now CAMIAD’s Chief Trainer.

How does your organisation contribute to preventing suicide and supporting those affected by it?

CAMIAD is committed to reducing the number of suicides by training professionals who have personal contact with individuals in debt to recognise if they have any underlying mental health issues and, in the more severe cases, could have suicidal thoughts. The training seminar further provides practical advice on how to signpost such individuals on for the appropriate help, counselling or treatment. In doing so, it is designed to help prevent debt-related suicides or severe mental crises and any attendant stress or grief that may otherwise have been inflicted on family, colleagues or friends. Professionals dealing with debtors – such as insolvency practitioners, accountants, solicitors, bankers, major employers, academics etc. – are trained and equipped to deal with debtors’ financial problems but in the vast majority of cases have no training in the mental health dimension of debt. The CAMIAD course fills that important gap. The original one-day course has recently been modified to address the specific demands of the UK’s consumer credit and payday loan companies that, under the Financial Conduct Authority’s regulations that came in to force in April 2014, are required to train relevant personnel to deal with vulnerable and at-risk clients who may be experiencing severe stress because of their inability to meet loan repayments.

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What are your current priorities?

CAMIAD’s first priority over the next 12 months is to increase substantially the number of professionals who have direct contact with debtors to undergo training so that they are equipped to recognise if clients have underlying mental health issues and, if so, how to direct them on for the appropriate help, counselling or treatment. In order to achieve this it is planned to increase the number of courses to all relevant professional disciplines across the UK including courses hosted by independent firms for external business contact in addition to courses for the relevant personnel within large debt-management companies, consumer credit and payday loan companies and for the members of appropriate business organisations.

Over the next 12 months CAMIAD further proposes to enhance it’s standing and status by establishing close working relationships with other organisations operating in the same general fields of debt and mental health and, in particular, the very significant links between them. In this context CAMIAD recognises the real benefits of becoming members of the National Suicide Prevention Alliance. In recent months CAMIAD has established a close working relationship with Christians Against Poverty (CAP) and is looking forward to pursuing joint initiatives with them in the near future. We are also recognised by the Insolvency Practitioners Association and the Association of Business Recovery Professionals (R3).

Since its formation in 2010 CAMIAD has been fortunate in achieving considerable critical acclaim and a flow of complimentary testimonials from both host companies and attending delegates. Over the next 12 months it is our intention to add gravitas to the campaign by attracting recognition and endorsement from academics researching the links between debt and suicide/ mental crises and politicians who have a personal or professional interest in this phenomena. This will inevitably open up opportunities for spreading the CAMIAD message and, in doing so, increase the number of trained professionals and with it the potential to prevent more debt-related suicides. In this context CAMIAD has already given a highlight presentation at the annual insolvency conference of the Institute of Chartered Accountants Scotland and attended the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Personal Finance at the House of Commons. Later this year CAMIAD has been invited to make a presentation at the annual conference of similar organisations in Saintes, France.

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What challenges are you currently facing?

The key challenge facing CAMIAD is to deliver the training to the maximum number of professionals dealing on a personal basis with distressed debtors to ensure that they have skills to recognise where debtor-clients are experiencing mental health issues and could be having suicidal thoughts. Where professionals who have direct contact with debtors do not have these skills, there is a real risk that individuals who may be considering suicide as a ‘release’ from their financial worries may be missed and lives needlessly lost. A further significant challenge is to identify and form on-going working relationships with the broad spectrum of regional and national organisations dedicated to supporting individuals mental health problems and debt, either independently or as a specific ‘twinned’ problem. As such, one of the key benefits of NSPA membership will be the opportunity to bring CAMIAD to the attention of other organisations operating in the same sphere and to facilitate interaction with potential mutual benefit.

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