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Senator: Bank workers should be taught suicide awareness

Labour Senator Lorraine Higgins has said that banks have “moral and legal responsibilities to customers”, who may be under “untold pressure” to repay debts.

Bank of Ireland on College Green, Dublin (File photo)
Bank of Ireland on College Green, Dublin (File photo)
Image: James Horan/Photocall Ireland

BANK EMPLOYEES WORKING in debt collection should undergo suicide awareness training “as a matter of urgency”.

Labour Senator Lorraine Higgins has said that banks have “moral and legal responsibilities to customers” as “untold pressure is being put on ordinary people to repay debts after being sucked in by the lure of easy credit”.

The call echoes that of businessman George Mordaunt, who has spoken openly about his struggle to deal with debt. Writing in TheJournal.ie last month, he described how his local bank had said they were aware of the risks in dealing with customers struggling to repay debt, but were trying to change how they dealt with them.

The Senator said that she had spoken to people who were “despairing” over the treatment they received by the banks.

“These people are on the edge and feel they have no support,” said Senator Higgins.

“While I acknowledge and understand the corporate world works on an entirely different basis to most others, we must seek higher standards from those tasked with debt collection”.

Anyone demanding payment of a debt is guilty of an offence under the Non-Fatal Offences Against the Person Act if they subject the debtor to alarm, distress or humiliation, the Senator pointed out.

“We need to be more active in securing convictions against those who breach this criminal code,” she said.

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Over 500 people took their own lives in Ireland in 2011.

Senator Higgins called on Labour Minister Kathleen Lynch, who has responsibility for mental health, to address the issue “as a matter of urgency”.

The East Galway Senator also said that every secondary school teacher in the country should be trained in suicide awareness and prevention.

“It is imperative that we assist teachers in being able to identify early warning signs and ensure our young are educated that suicide is not seen as a permanent solution to a temporary problem”.

Column: Your bank, your debt or your mental health – which will crack first?

Column: Suicide isn’t just about depression – it’s about all of us

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Christine Bohan

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