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The cost of living crisis and the impact on mental health

By Michael Devlin

Published In: Crime

This year, the mental health charity Mind has focused their mental health awareness week campaign on the impact the cost-of-living crisis is having on mental health. It’s something that by now, we’ve all heard about, and many of us are already feeling the pinch.

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The stress and anxiety caused by financial pressures can make us feel overwhelmed, panicked, uncertain and under pressure. These feelings take their toll. The stress and anxiety can lead to low moods, panic attacks and, for some, depression. In some truly horrific cases it can lead people to believe they have no alternative but suicide.

Increased desperation and poor mental health are leading to increased risk taking

Research has shown that financial difficulties and associated mental illness can also lead to increased risk-taking behaviour. In the case of low mood, feelings of despondency and worthlessness it can cause the sufferer to act in ways they wouldn’t normally. Additionally, conditions like ADHD, PTSD and bi-polar all have links to risk taking behaviours. 

One unfortunate side effect of the cost-of-living crisis is that the mental health of many is suffering as people struggle to pay bills. Also contributing to the issue is the increased demand for mental health services which exceeds the capacity of the NHS, leaving sufferers vulnerable.

Since the cost-of-living crisis, there’s been an increase in theft and petty crimes as desperation and panic take their toll. Research from Zurich shows there’s been a 19% increase in workplace theft between 2021 and 2022 and that isn’t just taking too many post its. The thefts range from minor incidents of stealing office supplies to the theft of data and embezzlement of company funds.

There’s also been an increase in people committing ‘opportunistic insurance fraud’. This is where someone makes a false claim or intentionally inflates the details of a real claim to achieve further pay out. The City of London Police’s Insurance Fraud Department (IFED) saw an 82% increase in referrals for opportunistic fraud in 2022 compared with 2021.

In the last UK recession (2020) at the peak of Covid-19 there was a 24% increase in fraud. As we enter what looks like a longer and impactful cost-of-living crisis, will there once again be an increase in crime?

What to do if you are accused of committing a crime?

Whatever circumstances you find yourself in, being accused of a crime is scary and getting the right support early will benefit you and your mental health. There are some steps you can take immediately that will help you whilst you await your outcome.

If you’re arrested in relation to a crime, it’s important you tell the police (and others such as your solicitor) that you have a mental health problem. This will allow you to get the right care and support.

If you are taken to the police station you have certain rights which can make the process easier. We are able to help you and you should contact us early so we can make sure you understand your rights and the support you can access. We have solicitors who specialise in supporting clients with mental health issues and disorders.

As the cost-of-living crisis shows little sign of easing, it’s important that we all do our bit to support one another. Whether we reach out to friends who are struggling, seek professional help if you need it, or simply be mindful of our own mental wellbeing. We can all help make things a little bit easier for those around us. Remember that charities like Mind  and Step Change  have lots of resources and support to help with  mental health and finances.

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Michael has 20 years’ experience in criminal law. He is a Solicitor Advocate, Duty Solicitor and leads our Crime team.

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