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Many people in mortgage arrears are contemplating suicide

A new survey explores the impact debt has on people’s mental health.

Image: Shutterstock/Lisa S.

MANY PEOPLE IN mortgage arrears are contemplating suicide or turning to alcohol, according to a new survey.

The Irish Mortgage Holders Organisation (IMHO) and clinical psychologist Dr Eddie Murphy questioned 488 people aged 29-70 years who are in debt.

The survey found that:

  • 44% of respondents said they felt depressed either all of the time or most of the time;
  • 31% have had suicidal thoughts in the last four weeks;
  • 22% had active plans to kill themselves;
  • 45% of people indicated harmful levels of alcohol use.

David Hall, IMHO CEO, said the survey should “act as a wakeup call” to the government.

Hall said that five IMHO clients have taken their own lives.

“As we face into a government formation all parties need to show leadership in ensuring that the reforms required to deal with legacy unsustainable debt are coupled with a comprehensive strategy to make sure that citizens are not, unnecessarily, scarred for life by the experience,” Hall stated.

Murphy, who is running in the Seanad elections as an independent candidate, said the survey results indicate significant levels of distress, depression and suicidality.

Anecdotally up to now in clinical practice we see the link between debt stress and suicide, these alarming results confirm this link. Immediate action is needed to support those in debt stress as it impacts on individuals, families communities and our society. This problem cannot be ignored.

The survey was based on the Kessler Psychological Distress Scale developed by the Harvard Medical School.

Some 280 men and 206 women took part. The respondents were in various levels of debt, ranging from less than €250,000 (over 50%), €250,000-€500,000 (about 28%), €500,000-€1 million (just over 10%) to debt in excess of €1 million (about 8%).

More information on IMHO’s services can be read here.

  • Samaritans 116 123 or email
  • Console 1800 247 247 – (suicide prevention, self-harm, bereavement)
  • Aware 1800 80 48 48 (depression, anxiety)
  • Pieta House 01 601 0000 or email – (suicide, self-harm)
  • Teen-Line Ireland 1800 833 634 (for ages 13 to 19)
  • Childline 1800 66 66 66 (for under 18s)

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Órla Ryan

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