The nationally representative study by Amarach Research surveyed 1,000 Irish people to examine the extent to which their mental health was affected by the recession and looked at consumer attitudes towards financial institutions and the future role they feel they should play to support vulnerable or distressed clients facing financial difficulties.
Among the findings of the study:
– 50% of Irish say their mental health deteriorated as a direct result of the crisis
– 70% say they experienced stress and anxiety as a direct result of the crisis with 28% seeking professional help for mental health concerns
– 42% said they suffered from sleep problems or sleep disorders
– Over one third say these mental health difficulties affected their ability to deal with their financial problems (36%).
– 17% say their mental health deteriorated ‘significantly’ as a result of the crisis with 14% experiencing suicide ideation
– 57% of Irish say that the financial crisis has made their generation’s outlook for the future more pessimistic (highest in 35-44 age category – 47%)
– 74% of the Irish population say they feel financial institutions should have structures in place to support indebted clients with 66% stipulating the specific need for “emotional support structures to help indebted customers.”
– 79% say regulators should step in to push financial institutions to implement measures to better protect the customer in financial distress.
The figures come at a time of reflection on the events that unfolded following the collapse of the Irish banking system on the night of September 29-30, 2008 and amid increasing scrutiny of conduct of the financial services sector.
In July, SilverCloud Health launched Space From Money Worries, a specialised online mental health programme, developed by their clinicians for the financial services sector. The programme was developed by SilverCloud’s clinical team to help tackle the kind of psychological mechanisms which lead to the cycle of financial difficulties and poor mental health. These include negative thinking patterns and avoidance behaviors which prevent people from tackling debt and which actually exacerbate impulse spending digging people deeper into a debt hole.
The health tech provider has developed a library of almost thirty different programmes focussed on providing behavioural health for all and support for specialised mental health disorders, such as depression and bipolar disorder, as well as several “maintenance” programmes which focus on areas such as resilience and sleep aimed at enhancing patient capacity to face, overcome and even be strengthened by difficult experiences in order to avoid the likelihood of mental health conditions. SilverCloud programmes are used by the HSE in Ireland, the NHS in the UK as well as several major healthcare providers in the USA.
According to SilverCloud CEO Ken Cahill, “If we look at latest data from the Central Bank of Ireland, Irish households continue to be the fourth most indebted in the EU at an average of €29,307 per capita. Debt continues to be a massive problem and our survey strongly indicates that as many as 74% of the Irish population expect banks to provide structures to support clients in debt. In fact, 66% of these specified that they would like banks to provide “supportive tools to address the emotional health pressures relating to financial debt. These kind of supports are being fast-tracked in the UK as financial governance increasingly recognise the link between mental health and debt. Our study shows the Irish public is strongly in favour of such support mechanisms. We look forward to working with financial institutions here in Ireland to help them to support customers to take back control of their financial difficulties.”
Psychologist, Dr. Derek Richards who is Director of Clinical Research & Innovation at SilverCloud added: “The results of our study clearly demonstrate that our collective and individual mental health has greatly suffered over the past decade as a result of the crisis. While efforts have been made in recent years to set up various debt advice support structures, none of these recognise the fact that debt and poor mental health are two sides of the same coin – you cannot effectively treat one without taking the other into account. Supporting vulnerable clients in this way allows them to take better control of their finances, which ultimately benefits them and the economy as a whole.”