New drama aimed at schools tackles mental health and loan sharks

New drama for school children tackles mental health problems brought on by loan sharks. 

A leading voice in mental health counselling has spearheaded a unique project to raise awareness of the growing rise in the damaging psychological impact on children and parents as a result of financial stress.

North East Counselling Services (NECS)  has teamed up with community charity, Edberts House in Felling to deliver a pioneering drama which was shown to three schools in the Gateshead area thanks to funding from the governments’s Illegal Money Lending Team, (IMLT)

The drama is based on two years of collaborative work between NECS and Edberts House which directly links to the challenges children and young people experience in the north east. Edberts House is a charity, formed almost ten years ago which aims to build happier, healthier, friendlier communities. The partnership with NECS and the IMLT has enabled the drama to be produced which is hoped will bring many positive outcomes.

The drama is written by North East scriptwriter Laura Lindow. Laura is an exceptional writer for young people and knows how to tackle difficult subjects in an accessible way. The play is as funny as it is moving, and will resonate with young minds. The piece is directed by Paula Penman and performed by Lewis Jobson and Sam Bell.

Pictured: Lewis Jobson and Sam Bell

An estimated 310,000 households nationally are borrowing from illegal money lenders; these criminals charge exorbitant rates of interest to trap people into a spiral of debt.The pressure they exert can destroy lives and push victims to the brink of suicide due to the extreme misery they cause. Loan sharks operate illegally and as the debts can’t legally be enforced many lenders will resort to the most extreme and callous methods to enforce repayment.

Financial pressures on the family are one of the key stress factors leading to poor mental health. The added complications associated with parents using loan sharks and money lenders has contributed to high stress levels found on their children.

NECS Chief Executive Officer, Marjorie Hunter said: “Financial stress is a major cause of poor mental health and our findings show that many young people hear their parents talking about their problems which then exposes the whole family to severe anxiety and stress. The drama we’ve commissioned will bring to life real issues and help the children to not only understand the issues but point them in the right direction for professional help.”

Katie Hutchison, NECS Childrens Clinical Director said: “Mental health issues are a rising problem for young people in the north-east as they are across the UK.  It’s a fact that many people will experience a mental health issue in their lifetime, but it is really is worrying when we see very young people coming to see us for professional counselling  because of the emotional ill health of their parents caused by debt”

Tony Quigley, Head of the Illegal Money Lending Team, said: “We want people to know that they are not alone and we can help them. Dramas such as this one in Gateshead will help us reach those families affected by these criminals.

“We would urge anyone who is involved with a loan shark to call us in confidence on 0300 555 2222. For more information and to report a loan shark online, visit www.stoploansharks.uk”

The play was delivered to children from three schools in Gateshead: Bede Primary, St Wilfrid’s Primary and Brandling Primary at the Gateshead International Stadium on 25 June.