Mental Health is More Than Lip-Service

24 October 2023

I’ve seen my fair share of people suffering on some of their worst days namely because I’m not normally called upon when things are going well. But the recent volume of people struggling with the weight of the world on their shoulders has increased significantly recently.

The cost of living crisis, coupled with inflation, the repayment of covid loans, HMRC delayed tax payments falling due, as well as the hike in borrowing, is some of the worst circumstances for business I’ve seen in my entire career. It’s enough to make even the most secure and financially solvent director panic. Is it any wonder we are seeing an uptick in mental health issues across the industry? So much so that in September the UK government updated it’s suicide prevention strategy for England – which was first published in 2012 – that now includes a particular focus on financial difficulty.

The government identified factors which pose a strong link to male suicide and unsurprisingly financial difficulty is at the top. For the population as a whole however, it comes second only to physical illness. In a separate study the rate of suicidal thoughts increases from 13%, if a person is not behind on any bills, to 49% if they are, according to a Money and Mental Health YouGov poll.

As an insolvency practitioner I’ve come across many directors in dire need of assistance, who are having serious mental health issues and, in some instances, suicidal thoughts. The majority of small businesses are run by one or two directors. A director in financial difficulty will often feel they have no-one to open up to and share experiences with or even anyone who can help them. In nearly all cases I’ve come across directors won’t speak to their wives/husband so they feel isolated and alone.

Difficulties can start to escalate really quickly as directors become increasingly concerned about where work is going to come from, how they will pay suppliers to keep their current customers happy and then there are added stresses when, like many, a personal guarantee against the business has been granted.

As seasoned practitioners most of us have lost a client to suicide or mental health issues.

The most important thing to remember is to speak out. I’ve had clients who have made themselves sick with worry over a debt of £1,000 and directors who appeared unconcerned with debts over £1m. It’s all relative to the individual.

With HMRC now being less lenient and a significant dilatation of support from the government of late, that’s why we’re here. To offer that support, lay out the options, consolidate and reduce debt, speak to creditors on the directors’ behalf and design a feasible solution that offers the best outcome for all stakeholders.

At FTS Recovery we specialise in supporting business owners. We want to use our expertise and capabilities to help those struggling. Once a month we also offer our offices to business so they can have a safe face-to-face space to speak to us and each other, with no obligation to engage us.

We are also offering mental health days to all our staff to seek help should they need it, honest conversations with their peers and management as well as support services available should they require them.

This is not a fad and too often insolvency practitioners feel helpless when not called soon enough. We at FTS Recovery and me personally, want to change the way debt is seen and talked about so that it is no longer a taboo subject and that its long-term effects on people’s health is recognized and addressed.

Marco Piacquadio is a director at FTS Recovery.