People urged to stay well and avoid debt this Christmas

Published

Suffolk’s Public Health team is offering a message of support for anyone struggling to cope this festive season, to seek help and not to struggle alone.

The Public Health team at Suffolk County Council is echoing advice issued by Citizens Advice urging people not to suffer in silence and to act now to avoid unnecessary debt in the new year.

A study by Citizens Advice last year suggested people with unmanageable debt are 24% more likely to have poor mental health. This year, Citizens Advice is providing the following top 10 tips for a healthy, debt-free Christmas:

  1. Plan early – Budget accordingly and be realistic
  2. Don’t forget the everyday bills – Remember that the rent, mortgage, utility bills and other regular expenses still need to be paid
  3. Don’t bank on an overdraft – Running up debt on cards can be expensive, so talk to your bank first before you rely on an overdraft
  4. Keep things simple – Aim to pay for your goods outright without signing extended credit agreements
  5. Shop around – Find the best price and buy what you want, not what other people say you need
  6. Buy safe to be safe – Watch out for unauthorised lenders or traders. The initial savings on a cheaper deal may prove to be a false economy
  7. Read the small print – Check for the details in any credit agreement before signing
  8. Do your own credit checks – If you are going to use a credit card, shop around and compare terms to avoid unnecessarily high rates of interest
  9. Be organised – If you’ve borrowed money, it won’t be long before you have to make a payment. Make sure you pay on time, or you could be faced with bank charges
  10. Start planning and saving for next Christmas!

The call on people not to suffer in silence over the holiday period is part of a continuing approach to support good mental health in Suffolk. The Suffolk Lives Matter campaign aims to get people to talk openly, while raising awareness of the support available to help people manage their mental health.

Councillor Tony Goldson, Suffolk County Council’s Cabinet Member for Health and chairman of the Suffolk Health and Wellbeing Board, said:

“We are fortunate to have some outstanding support services here in Suffolk who are ready to listen and offer advice as necessary.

“The main message is that help is available, from informal networks and groups to our professional services. Also, if you are concerned about the wellbeing of others, from friends to family members, you can seek advice about how you can help.”

Lynne Rawlings, Manager of Citizens Advice Newmarket, where 27% of debt clients declare themselves as having poor mental health, said:

“The Christmas period is generally a time to enjoy yourself and look forward to time with friends and family. However, for some, the combination of loneliness, debt and the expectations that accompany the run up to Christmas can have devastating consequences.

“My advice to people in Newmarket, and elsewhere in Suffolk, would be to look after themselves and, if you are struggling, to talk to friends and loved ones about how you are feeling. Citizens Advice is also always here for free, impartial advice for debt and many other issues.”

Jon Neal, Chief Executive of Suffolk Mind said:

“Throughout the year, but particularly during the festive season, we all need someone in our lives who accepts us ‘warts and all’ for who we are – it can be a parent, a partner, a sibling, friend or a pet. If you know someone who might be lonely this Christmas, give them a call or pop round to see them. Even a little attention can mean an awful lot.

“A really important part of emotional resilience is to have plenty of meaning and purpose in our lives, and Christmas can be an opportunity to do exactly that. Start by asking what Christmas should mean to you. Are there opportunities to give money or time to worthy causes? Many churches and homeless shelters need volunteers to help out those in need. A powerful antidote to the excesses of the festive season can be to take stock of what we have to be grateful for.

“If you feel that you need some emotional support either over the phone, text or email, you can contact our Suffolk Night Owls service. This is a free support service open Thursday to Sunday 8pm to 2am. To register for the service, please contact suffolk.night.owls@suffolkmind.org.uk.”

Judy Wright, Branch Director of the Samaritans of Ipswich and East Suffolk, said:

“Christmas is generally a time for celebration and fun with friends and family but for some people Christmas can be a very difficult time. Feelings of loneliness, isolation and unhappiness can be quite overwhelming at this time of year.

“Samaritans are always there to listen. Just talking to someone can sometimes lift some of the heaviness and anxiety and help find a way through.”

A summary list of organisations who offer help in the county is available from www.healthysuffolk.org.uk/suffolklivesmatter or from the Suffolk InfoLink directory.