More people on low incomes are considering taking their own lives as the cost of living crisis bites, a Christian debt counselling charity has warned.
Christians Against Poverty found that over a third of its clients (36%) attempted or considered suicide before seeking help with their debt from the charity, up from 28% on the previous year.
The research by CAP also revealed that mental health issues were commonplace, with CAP clients who reported depression rising by 71%, and those stating that they have experienced anxiety increasing by 80%.
One CAP client, Syd, considered taking his own life when serious illness left him with unmanageable debt.
"I had a brain tumour which was removed and I now suffer with terminal Crohn's disease. I also lost my mother during that time as well," he said.
"From being a paid semi-professional sporting star where I had everything under control, I went to struggling to pick up a tin of beans or the kettle.
"I was suffering badly from depression. Previously I had always worked very hard but due to circumstances beyond anybody's control I got to a state where I was on suicide watch."
CAP, which works through local churches, has helped Syd to become debt free.
"It's made such a difference," he said.
"If I had carried on as before, I probably wouldn't be here now. I couldn't see a way out. These people will not judge you, they're just there to help you."
CAP said that low pay coupled with rising costs are leaving people struggling with high debt.
Its latest client report reveals a significant gap between personal debt and what people are earning. While CAP clients' average income stands at £13,404 after housing costs, the average peak debt sits at £17,306 - a difference of 3,902.
"This is making it incredibly difficult for people to break free from debt without free debt help," CAP said.
The report finds that people are increasingly incurring serious debts just to cover basic living costs like rent, utility bills, and council tax, rising 14% from £5,852 to £6,698 in the last 12 months.
This has led to a 27% rise in clients sacrificing meals, a 22% increase in those going without heating, and a 48% increase in those unable to afford basic toiletries as they struggle to make ends meet.
The findings correspond with a 40% rise in calls to CAP's helpline in the first five months of 2022, compared to last year.
Gareth McNab, CAP Director of External Affairs, said, "The reality for families on the lowest incomes is many of them just don't have enough money coming in to be able to run their homes, buy the essentials, and feed themselves and their children."
CAP, which provides free debt support and budgeting courses, is encouraging people to ask for help.
"We encourage anyone struggling to seek free debt help because we know that with incomes so low, and rapidly rising costs, a lot of families are finding it impossible to stay out of debt and it looks like things are set to get even more difficult this winter," he said.
"It's incredibly sad but not surprising that this is leading to more people feeling anxious, depressed and suicidal."
He welcomed the Chancellor's recent pledge of support for the most vulnerable people but said that the cost of living and the debts being incurred are higher than the financial assistance being offered.
"It's vital that the UK Government come up with a longer term solution, address the inadequacies of the social security system, and ensure everyone has a liveable income," he said.
"Many people still face destitution in the months ahead, prices are still rising rapidly and sadly this crisis is far from over."
For free debt help, contact CAP on 0800 328 0006 or visit capuk.org.