Charity Macmillan Cancer Support has warned cash worries for patients during the coronavirus pandemic could be linked to an alarming eight-fold increase in suicidal thoughts among sufferers.
Financial headaches have long been linked to the illness due to the impact it can have on jobs and family life.
However, added stress and anxiety as a result of Covid-19, coupled with increased uncertainties with employment, are believed to be making the situation even more unbearable for patients.
The worrying statistic comes from new research done by Macmillan with nearly 3,000 adults who have previously had a cancer diagnosis.
Fears coronavirus financial worries are causing suicidal thoughts in cancer patients
Figures from the charity show more than two in three patients who are struggling to find enough money to cover basic living costs have reported anxiety or depression during Covid-19.
Macmillan say a shocking 24% from that group have had suicidal thoughts during the coronavirus pandemic – compared to just 3% of those who are not struggling for money.
Jacqueline Coyle, a Macmillan welfare officer, said: “I’ve been doing this job since 2008 and the financial implications that come with a cancer diagnosis, is nothing new but there has definitely been a shift in the number of people seeking financial help, particularly those of a working age.
“When you throw into the mix, the knock-on effect of a pandemic, with furlough and job losses, then you can understand the added anxiety and pressures that can bring on top of being diagnosed with cancer.
“There’s so much uncertainty around. Normally people would receive company sick pay, but of course a lot are on furlough and being made redundant. The volume of concern and desperation has increased considerably.
When you throw into the mix, the knock-on effect of a pandemic, with furlough and job losses, then you can understand the added anxiety.”
Jacqueline Coyle, Macmillan welfare officer
“Online applications for Universal Credit can throw up many challenges – it’s not easy.
“The system was meant to simplify things, but it can be quite complicated. It can also take quite a bit of time before people start to receive money when they have nothing. They find themselves unable to pay bills, unable to put food on the table and quite possibly struggling to keep a roof over their head.”
Macmillan calls for benefits increase to be made permanent beyond coronavirus
Macmillan has reported that calls to its financial guidance team are currently 41% higher than they were during the first month of lockdown last year.
The charity is calling on the UK Government to make the £20 per week increase in Universal Credit, which was introduced due to the impact of the pandemic, permanent to help ease the financial burden.
An announcement about a potential extension is expected to be made by the Treasury in next month’s budget.
Steven McIntosh, director of advocacy at Macmillan Cancer Support, said: “Even pre-pandemic, we know that many people with cancer who rely on benefits are struggling to get by.
“Day in and day out, we speak to people who are worried about starting their cancer treatment because they just don’t know how they will pay their bills or put food on the table.
“The impact of Covid-19 has revealed the need to ensure vital support for those who need it most is not cut back.”
Mental health charity backs coronavirus financial support calls from Macmillan
Macmillan provides advice to cancer patients about the benefits they may be entitled to while they undergo treatment.
The charity also provides grants to ease the financial burden of meeting the extra costs and loss of income that come with their diagnosis.
Mental health charity Mind has reported a similar increase in calls to Macmillan with more depression and suicidal thoughts during coronavirus lockdown.
Policy and campaigns manager Paul Spencer said: “The benefits system should be a safety net for those of us whose mental or physical health prevents us from earning enough to live on. Too often, however, people are left without the support they desperately need.
“Mind regularly hears from people experiencing mental health problems, who have been left short at the hands of a needlessly complicated and stressful system, which can worsen people’s mental health.
“Nobody should have to worry about not being able to afford basic essentials, especially during this devastating pandemic.”
For anyone experiencing suicidal thoughts, please contact Samaritans on 116 123. Anyone can contact Samaritans for free in confidence any time from any phone, even a mobile without credit, and the number won’t show up on your phone bill. Or email firstname.lastname@example.org