Mental Health and Insolvency. 13th -17th May is Mental Health Awareness Week

Mental Health is directly affected by the stress of financial difficulties and insolvency, which is why we are championing Mental Health Awareness Week and the power of the 8-minute catch-up.

In recent months, we have written about the effect of Insolvency on mental health and our commitment to helping out as best we can in this area, with two of our team – Elaine Wilkins and Stephen Evans – being Mental Health First Aiders. This is why we are championing Mental Health Awareness Week (13th – 19th May 2024 ), and also the power of the 8-minute catch-up which can be so beneficial in  helping people cope a little more with the stresses and strains that life can impose on mental health, especially when financial pressures grow and insolvency looms. In this article we look at the focus of Mental Health Awareness Week and how the 8-minute catch up can help.

Mental Health Awareness Week

Poor mental health affects millions in this country, not just those in business. However, figures from a survey of small businesses by Purbeck Personal Guarantee Insurance in January 2024 showed that 24% of respondents reported that their mental health had been adversely affected by the stress of managing their business’s finances during the difficult last 12-24 months. That is a worryingly high number, and with Government figures showing that there are 5.47 million small businesses (0 to 49 employees) in the UK, then extrapolating from the survey points towards people at over 1.3 million companies likely to be feeling some degree of stress due to financial pressures.

But what can people do to alleviate the stress they feel and the damage it can do when mental health and insolvency collide? That is where Mental Health Awareness Week 2024 comes in, with its theme of “Movement: Moving more for our mental health.”

 Why movement?

As the Mental Health Foundation says:

“Movement is important for our mental health. But so many of us struggle to move enough. We know there are many different reasons for this, so this Mental Health Awareness Week we want to help people to find moments for movement in their daily routines.

 Research has shown that regular physical activity can make us happier and healthier. When we’re active, our bodies release feel-good hormones, which can reduce anxiety and stress and help us sleep better. By building movement into our working day, we can positively impact productivity and focus.”

This applies as much to people running businesses as it does to life at home, and as insolvency practitioners, we have seen the stress and strain that business difficulties can cause company directors and their staff at a time when mental health and insolvency combine. At the very sharpest end are those businesses that enter insolvency, often through little or no fault of their own, with data from the Office for National Statistics showing that in 2023, business insolvencies reached 25,159, the highest level since 2009, and a 14% increase on 2022.

The message is that simply going for a walk can help, as can dancing to your favourite music, for example, when trying to manage your mental health, company director or otherwise.

What about the 8-minute catch-up?

It’s not just moving that can help. So can talking about problems to a friend as an article entitled “The Incredible Power of an 8-minute catch up with a friend,” by Simon Sinek.

The 8-minute catch-up advocates “short, focused periods of connection with friends or loved ones …. to cultivate a sense of closeness and well-being.”

But why 8 minutes? This relates back to some research in 2021 which demonstrated that “by mutually agreeing to an eight-minute time limit beforehand, both parties can engage in a meaningful exchange without overstaying their welcome. This ensures that the time spent together is both beneficial and respected.”

The most important thing, of course, is that asking for help and sharing problems is an essential part of coping with poor mental health.

How can Insolvency Practitioners help?

People with financial difficulties are more likely to suffer with Mental Health problems.

It is well known that financial difficulties, whether for individuals or within businesses, can lead to real mental health problems, including depression and anxiety. In a recent report, the Money and Mental Health Policy Institute found that 18% of people with mental health problems may also suffer with debt issues and that 46% of people in problem debt also have a mental health problem. The report suggested that c.1.5 million people struggle with Mental Health issues and problem debt at the same time and that the situation can be made worse if they are treated insensitively by creditors.

Two of our number are now Mental Health First Aiders – Stephen Evans, a consultant at our London Office, and Elaine Wilkins a Director at our Bournemouth Office.

Both are certified through MHFA England, a social enterprise with a vision to improve the mental health of the nation. Through their training, campaigning, and reinvesting, they equip people with the skills to support their own and others’ wellbeing. They believe in zero stigma around mental health and want mental health to be openly discussed and supported.

As Stephen says:

“I have worked in Insolvency for most of my career, becoming a Licensed Insolvency Practitioner in 1995. In that time, I have come across many business owners and directors who are deeply anxious and distressed with their financial situation, especially when their businesses have been plunged into difficulties through no fault of their own.

 Over the years at Antony Batty and Company, we have always been sensitive to the stresses and strains that insolvency can cause and supportive of the people involved. The Mental Health First Aid training I received has helped me to better recognise the signs of depression and anxiety, which people often cover up, when in financial difficulties. This helps with the tone of voice and style of approach we adopt as we work out the most appropriate plan to address these financial difficulties.

Of course, we are not mental health practitioners, and we cannot advise on the cause of mental health issues or any medical treatment. Having completed the training, however, I will be using my new skills in this area to help any of the individuals and businesses who approach us when their finances are in real difficulties feel a little better about their financial position and know that there is a likely solution available.”

Elaine comments:

“I use my skills in this area to help any of the individuals and businesses who approach us when their finances are in real difficulties and they realise they need help.

The stories of sleepless nights, growing anxiety and deepening depression are all too true for those individuals and business owners who are facing problem debt and, ultimately, insolvency. Sometimes our advice is sought too late, and the only way out is a liquidation. Even then, we can help lessen stress and strain by taking over the work of dealing with creditors. If contacted quickly, the chances of turnaround and recovery are much improved, perhaps via an Administration or a Company Voluntary Arrangement, where once again, we take the strain.”

And, of course, if a walk or an 8-minute catch-up can help, then so much the better.

Talk to us if insolvency is looming

The sooner our help and advice is sought when insolvency looms, the better.

If you, or your company, are facing insolvency due to problem debt, HMRC arrears, cashflow or other financial problems and you are stressed and anxious about what to do, then please do contact one of our Insolvency Practitioners for a fully confidential, and FREE initial discussion at any of our offices.

At the meeting, our highly qualified specialists will provide you with independent, professional assistance/guidance and go over all the possible options, which will also help take the stress and strain away.

If you are concerned about the financial position of your company and are facing insolvency, please contact us at one of our offices:

Also, K&W Recovery, trading as Antony Batty and Company, Thames Valley: