A DAD of two was left feeling suicidal when manic spending sprees caused by his bipolar saw him rack up £30,000 of debt.
Paul Meadows, 45, an office manager from Northamptonshire says it’s only his children who kept him going and spurred him to getting the help he needed.
Paul racked up £30,000 of debt during episodes when his polar became worse
“It was like a rollercoaster. You were on this high one minute and you think you can afford it, but at the other end you think you’ve got to stop as it’s getting you into debt.
“But it’s a bit like an addiction. Like an itch. It becomes a fixation – it’s always on your brain. Even if you try and get it out – you can’t.
“You think the family needs a holiday, and then you say to yourself, ‘but you can’t afford it’. But then it keeps running through your head.
“And online the worst thing is all these reminders and adverts pop up when you’ve browsed a website. You find it hard to get it out of your mind.”
YOU’RE NOT ALONEEVERY 90 minutes in the UK a life is lost to suicide.
It doesn’t discriminate, touching the lives of people in every corner of society – from the homeless and unemployed to builders and doctors, reality stars and footballers.
It’s the biggest killer of people under the age of 35, more deadly than cancer and car crashes.
And men are three times more likely to take their own life than women.
Yet it’s rarely spoken of, a taboo that threatens to continue its deadly rampage unless we all stop and take notice, now.
That is why The Sun launched the You’re Not Alone campaign.
The aim is that by sharing practical advice, raising awareness and breaking down the barriers people face when talking about their mental health, we can all do our bit to help save lives.
Let’s all vow to ask for help when we need it, and listen out for others… You’re Not Alone.
If you, or anyone you know, needs help dealing with mental health problems, the following organisations provide support:
It comes as new research from the Money and Mental Health Policy Institute (MMHPI) has found that 1.5million people in England are currently struggling with both problem debt and mental health problems at the same time.
The charity, which was set up by MoneySavingExpert.com’s Martin Lewis, adds that people with mental health problems are three and a half times more likely to be in problem debt compared to those without mental health problems.
While nearly half (46 per cent) of all people in problem debt are also experiencing a mental health problem.
The Sun launched its You’re Not Alone campaign in October to remind anyone facing a tough time, grappling with mental illness or feeling like there’s nowhere left to turn, that there is hope.
Paul believes if it wasn’t for his illness he wouldn’t be where he is now.
He was diagnosed with type 2 bipolar last year but he first start experiencing mental health problems seven years ago.
Paul Meadows Paul is now repaying his debts and trying to get his life back on track
At the time he was stressed at work and trying to get extra support for his son who has learning difficulties.
His health was also at a low and he was experiencing panic attacks from stress and anxiety.
Paul then became obsessed with spending – whether it was holidays for the family, clothes for work or books and collectables.
Often they were items he didn’t even need; he just felt compelled to buy them.
When this first happened, Paul wracked up around £20,000 worth of debt on everything from overdrafts to credit cards to personal loans to payday loans.
Thankfully Paul pulled through this difficult period, curbed his spending, remortgaged his home to get some of the equity out and eventually repaid his debts.’I wouldn’t remember spending the money’
But in 2016 his mental health took another dip and the manic spending returned.
This time, Paul wracked up around £10,000 and he’s still paying back the cash.
“These impulses were uncontrollable, like I was a totally different person,” he said.
How to get out of debt in five easy stepsWE explain how to get yourself out of debt…
Take your head out of the sand It can be tempting to ignore the envelopes landing on the doormat but resist the urge to bury your head in the sand. Write down a list of all of your debts, the outstanding balances, the interest charged, and repayment dates for each.
Pay off urgent debts Take time to sort out how much money you owe and how much you having coming in. If you have several debts, you need to make sure you’re dealing with the most important ones first, such as your rent or mortgage payments, gas and electricity bills, or council tax. Next, try to pay off those with the highest interest rates first.
Cut your household bills Can you cut anything out and are your bills as cheap as they can be? Identify any unnecessary expenditures you could cut down to help reduce spending in the short term, such as pricey nights out and any subscriptions you’re not using and make sure you’re shopping around and getting the best value for money when it comes to households bills.
Make cash by selling unwanted items Either sell them on eBay (go for the ‘Buy it Now’ option as it’s new) or, if it’s big, try your local Facebook group as it’s free and you sell to people nearby who can come and pick the item up.
Get help if you need it If you’re really struggling, contact a free debt advice charity, such as StepChange, National Debtline and Citizens Advice. They can give you confidential support and advice and you should never have to pay for this.
“It’s a bit like a red rage you get lost in. I often wouldn’t remember where the money had gone.
“Afterwards, I’d find out about the spending and it would bring on the depressive part of the cycle.”
Since being diagnosed, Paul is now on medication and receives support from his employer’s workplace mental health scheme, which he says has been “fantastic”.
He has also set up a support group on Facebook – called Sends4dad (special educational needs and disability support) – for other dads in Northamptonshire who have children with special needs.
‘I was offered more and more money by banks’
Paul says one of the problems is that lenders make it too easy for people with mental health problems to access cash.
“Financial institutions have a very big responsibility in all of this – they make it far too easy, especially online.
“They’re supposed to do checks but a lot of the time there’s a way around it, and automatic credit limit increases don’t help – people should be automatically opted out, not in.
“When I was overspending, I would receive letters asking if I want to borrow more, or offering me loans.”
Voluntary rules introduced by the city watchdog last March enable card users to opt out of automatic credit increases, while people in debt for at least 12 months shouldn’t be offered credit limit increases at all.
But these are guidelines rather than compulsory rules.
How to get debt help for freeTHERE are lots of groups that can help you with your debts for free.
Citizens Advice – 0808 800 9060
StepChange – 0800 138 1111
National Debtline – 0808 808 4000
You can also find information about Debt Management Plans (DMP) and Individual Voluntary Arrangements (IVA) on the Money Advice Service website and on the Government’s Gov.uk site.
Speak to one of these organisations – don’t be tempted to use a claims managment firm that will say it can write-off lots of your debts in return for a large up-front fee.
Helen Undy, chief executive of the Money and Mental Health Policy Institute, said: “When you’re struggling with your mental health it can be much harder to stay in work or manage your spending, while being in debt can cause huge stress and anxiety.
“The two issues feed off each other, creating a vicious cycle which can destroy lives.
“Yet despite how connected these problems are, financial services rarely think about our mental health, and mental health services rarely consider what’s happening with our money.”
A spokesperson for banking trade body UK Finance said: “Lenders recognise the challenges that people with mental health issues may have in managing their finances and are committed to providing them with the best possible service for their needs.
“This includes improving how vulnerable people are identified in debt collection practices, giving customers ‘breathing space’ to seek the support they need and making it easier for friends and family to help them manage their money.
“Customers who are worried about their finances should contact their lender as soon as possible for support and to agree a way forward.”
NO SHAME Payday lender Peachy slammed for encouraging Brexit food stockpiling using loans PROBLEM DEBT Two thirds of debt firms ‘giving bad advice and pushing unaffordable payments’ HEALTH CHEQUE GPs to stop charging up to £150 for forms giving debt and mental health help DEBT CRISIS Debt-laden families borrowing THIRD more than they earn, figures reveal LOWEST OF THE LOW Debt collectors slammed for preying on desperate customers
The Money and Mental Health Policy Institute has also found that Universal Credit makes mental health problems WORSE.
But hard-up Brits with mental health issues should soon be able to get unlimited time to pay back debts.
While Martin Lewis is “over the moon” as GPs have stopped charging up to £150 for forms giving free debt and mental health help.
Mum-of-three trapped by poverty premium and ‘rip-off’ high cost credit loans feels she’s ‘existing, not living’
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