14 May 2024

Supporting Vulnerable Customers During Mental Health Awareness Week

Mental Health Awareness Week is a timely reminder for all of us to consider the well-being of ourselves and those around us. Here at the Chartered Institute of Credit Management (CICM), we understand that mental health issues and financial difficulties can often be interlinked, and this can create challenging situations for both customers and credit professionals.

Mental health and wellbeing remain significant concerns, with an estimated 1 in 6 working-age adults experiencing symptoms associated with mental ill-health at any given time. Financial worries, such as concerns over money, debts and budgeting, are known to cause or exacerbate stress, anxiety and depression. This can lead to avoidance behaviours which serve to further compound the issue as additional financial stress builds up.

The Debt Crisis

The March 2024 issue of CICM Credit Management Magazine highlighted the ongoing debt crisis. While lower income groups may have seen their personal savings increase during the pandemic, the subsequent surge in the cost of living, driven mainly by rampant inflation and increased housing costs, has seen those savings dwindle. Now, households are facing difficult decisions about where to cut outgoings and how to allocate any remaining funds. All of this can add to financial stress and in turn lead to a worsening of mental health and well-being. So, how can we as creditors help those in need?

Supporting Vulnerable Customers

As credit management and debt collections professionals, we have a crucial role in supporting vulnerable customers, some of whom may be struggling with mental health issues. Here are some key points to remember:

  • Be empathetic and understanding. Acknowledging the challenges your customer may be facing and showing compassion will give you better insight into their unique situation.
  • Practice active listening. Allow your customer to explain their situation in their own words. Don't interrupt, make assumptions or rush to judgement.
  • Communicate clearly and concisely. Use plain language and avoid jargon. Ensure your tone is non-threatening. Explain options and processes thoroughly.
  • Be patient and flexible. Customers with mental health issues may need more time to process information and make decisions. Be willing to adjust your approach if necessary.
  • Offer tailored solutions. Explore all available options, including repayment plans, debt management programs, or hardship assistance.
  • Signpost to additional support. Provide information on mental health resources, free debt advice and support services  that your customer might find helpful.

Download our interactive scenario guide

We have created an interactive guide to help you understand how to navigate a scenario with a customer struggling with their mental health. Download the guide and see if you can find the best outcome.

During Mental Health Awareness Week, let's pledge to be understanding, compassionate, and well-equipped to support those who need it most.

Thumbnail for the resource "How to Handle a Difficult Conversation"

How to Handle a Difficult Conversation | Interactive Template

Download the interactive guide for handling a difficult conversation with a customer suffering from poor mental health.

Don’t neglect your own mental health

Supporting customers through challenging situations can be emotionally taxing, and it’s important that you don’t neglect your own wellbeing. With the theme of this year’s Mental Health Awareness week centred around movement, think about where you can introduce more movement into your daily routines. This could be as simple as walking around the office to visit colleagues or going for a good walk during your break times – anything that gets you moving around is good for your own mental health, so try and do more of it.