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Blaming banks for suicides is silly

I know it’s great fun to blame banks. It doesn’t really matter what you choose to blame them for because they’re probably guilty of most allegations you lob their way, if not for any current indiscretion then certainly for some past misdemeanour. And you’re also likely to be on a safe bet if you keep your claws sharpened in anticipation of naughtiness yet to be unearthed as well.

But what beggars belief are the recent madcap assertions by an alleged senior official of a major bank who believes her industry is in some way responsible for the ultimate in self-harm – suicide.

So I find myself uncharacteristically rallying to banks’ defence. The BBC’s Britain’s Streets of Debt documentary makes much of her assertions and we learn that in the past two years there have been eight reported cases of people in debt taking their own lives. I don’t track suicide statistics but that seems a small number to me, particularly given the mountain of personal debt we are told we are all living under.

But this official, who doesn’t want her name revealed, believes there are many more suicides that never get reported as they are handled “internally”. No doubt by each bank’s body bag and spin department. What is she on?

It’s not that I have a callous attitude towards life or that I have no capacity for sympathy or compassion. My heart goes out to the bereaved families who are left to question why life became so unbearable for a loved one that suicide became the only answer.

But the trigger point for such tragic outcomes could be laid at innumerable doors. Yes, debt can be a contributory factor but so can love, rejection, divorce, bereavement, guilt and a host of other factors. So let’s cut banks some slack here and get real.

If you borrow money you have to pay it back. If you don’t you can expect to be contacted by whoever lent it to you. What’s more, the fact that you borrow more than you can afford to repay is not banks’ fault, however easy they make it for you. In all my years of borrowing I’ve never had a lender’s staff rubber truncheon me into taking money. I doubt there’s a single person in this country who isn’t familiar with the word no.

And if you do over-commit, there are alternatives to topping yourself – bankruptcy to name but one. So let’s stop being silly and blaming banks.


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