Page last updated at 12:54 GMT, Tuesday, 30 September 2008 13:54 UK

Crunch pushes up Samaritan calls

By Michelle Roberts
Health reporter, BBC News

Telephone helpline
The Central London branch took 4,500 calls in August and September 2008

Samaritans is experiencing increased calls as a direct effect of the credit crunch.

Its Central London branch had an extra 1,000 calls during August and September this year - 25% more than in the same months last year.

Callers have been worried by the unstable financial climate and the latest fears of recession, it says.

Citizens Advice has also had more business from people with personal debt problems.

It is down to the stress of the current financial climate. People are worried about the impact on their lives
Terrence Collis from the Samaritans

Terrence Collis from Samaritans said: "We have had an increase in the number of calls that we are having. It would seem likely that it is down to the stress of the current financial climate.

"People are worried about the impact on their lives."

Shaun Kelly, outreach and communications co-coordinator at Central London branch said: "Debt is known to contribute to emotional distress and sometimes people in financial difficulty can consider suicide as a way out of the situation that they are in.

"It is really important for people to talk to somebody about how they are feeling rather than keeping worries to themselves, in order to find a positive way forward."

Other branches noted smaller increases in calls for the same period - although in other areas the figures held steady.

A spokeswoman said this might reflect the fact that much of the financial impact so far, like the collapse of Lehman, had largely been focused in London.


Private clinics offering stress counselling say they are seeing more professionals from the financial industry - city bankers, traders and lawyers - seeking help.

Dr Michael Sinclair, a psychologist in the city, said he had seen "substantial increase" in referrals.

"There is definitely a growing sense of stress and trepidation among city works. We are seeing lots of people with anxiety and depression."

Amanda Falkson, a psychotherapist from Psychotherapy City, said: "About 90% of my clients work in the city, and all of them want to leave their jobs. There is a lot of despair, anxiety and panic. It is a very unpleasant environment to work in.

"There is a feeling that only the strong will survive, so they are working longer, harder and later into the night

"They are putting on a front and they feel scared and isolated. People have lost a lot of money on the markets that they had put aside to pay for their pension or their children's education."

Last year debt enquiries to the Citizens Advice Bureaux in England and Wales hit a record high, increasing by 20% in 12 months, bringing the total to 1.7 million in 2006/07.

Debt is now the number one issue advised on by Citizen's Advice, accounting for nearly one in three of all enquiries. Its advisers are dealing with over 6,600 debt problems every working day.

Debts relating to credit, store and charge cards still remain the largest category of debt.

But the bureaux is seeing a sharp rise in the number of cases where people are struggling to pay their mortgage, council tax and utility bills.

A spokeswoman said: "People are still struggling to pay off personal credit debt, such as credit and store cards, but we are seeing more people being squeezed and finding it hard to pay their day to day household bills."

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