Financial Melancholia: Mental Health and Indebtedness was released on Wednesday 8 July, 2015.

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Dr Will Davies, Dr Johnna Montgomerie and Sara Wallin introduce their study of online peer-to-peer forums used by people carrying debts, and argue that a rise in mental health problems such as depression cannot be understood in narrowly medical terms, but needs to be understood in their political economic context.


The researchers found a rich resource of information in the debt sections of well-used forums on Mumsnet and the websites of Money Saving Expert and the Consumer Action Group. These public forums, like un-moderated focus groups, offer a unique look at the everyday reality of living with debt.

An overview of the parallel increases of debt and depression, noting massive rises in depression rates in line with UK individuals’ combined debt. Current household debt-to-GDP stands at 150%, prescriptions for anti-depressants doubled from 1999-2009, and previous studies show a clear link between suicide rates and increased poverty. By introducing positive psychology into the benefits system, and encouraging greater personal responsibility, the government is failing to solve the vicious cycle of regret, guilt, shame and relationship breakdowns experienced by those in debt.

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Comments from key stakeholders in debt and mental health gave feedback on the report.

Katherine Rock, Money Advice Trust

Kath Rock is an Information Officer working for the Money Advice Trust. Kath has worked in the not-for-profit advice sector for 10 years in a range of capacities including specialist money adviser and also manager of a team of money advisers at National Debtline and Business Debtline.

One of Kath’s areas of specialism is debt and mental health. Over the last two years she has been working with the Money Advice Liaison Group to update the debt and mental health guidelines for consumers, creditors and health workers. She continues to sit on their steering group, helping to continue influencing how people with mental health conditions who are also in debt are treated when they are in financial difficulties.

Dr Lynne Friedli (Hubub)

Lynne Friedli is a freelance researcher with a special interest in the relationship between mental health, inequalities and social justice. She works in the UK and across the EU to build public mental health policy and practice.

Lynne’s main concern at the moment is how to ensure that issues of social justice are central to debates about wellbeing. There is a real danger that in acknowledging the importance of the social, psychological and spiritual dimensions of human experience, questions of growing inequalities in the distribution of wealth and power are brushed aside. Lynne has written about these problems in relation to the resurgence of interest in ‘assets based approaches’, see Releasing Our Potential? Using Assets to Tackle Poverty. She is also interested in the work of Amartya Sen and Martha Nussbaum on capabilities, and is currently writing a second report for WHO Europe, linking the capabilities approach with a framework for action on public mental health.

Dr Samuel Kirwan (University of Bristol)

Samuel Kirwan is a Research Associate based in the School of Law at the University of Bristol. Samuel is particularly interested in money advice and the experience of indebtedness and how the financial plan drawn up between client and adviser relates to the everyday relationships and spaces across which it must endure. His current research explores the role of Citizens Advice Bureaux.

Samuel has published widely on advice work, neoliberalism and the commons and his recent academic articles include “A state for the commons: neoliberalism through the lens of advice work: An ever-narrowing definition of ‘ordinariness’ is excluding people from an ever-widening range of rights.” In Soundings and he has recently finished editing the book “Space, Power and the Making of the Commons” to be published by Routledge in September 2015

The webcast of the report launch are provided by Letmelooktv