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The Isolation of Debt and Other Such Things

posted by Debb Thorne

As of today, 700 telephone interviews have been completed as part of the current round of data collection on the Consumer Bankruptcy Project. Since I am overseeing this part of the process, I have had the privilege of being one of the first to hear about people's experiences with bankruptcy. One thing that has struck me repeatedly is the extreme loneliness and isolation that typically accompanies these families as they wind their way through bankruptcy. The people who are going through it often go it alone. They seldom turn to family members or friends for support. More often, they say that it would be a cold day in hell before they even told anyone else about their insolvency, let alone ask them for help. And there simply are no support groups for these people.

I know this propensity for isolation is due to the fact that an inability to repay one's debts continues to be quite stigmatizing. (Anyone who disagrees with this has clearly not spent much time listening to the families who seek refuge from their creditors in the bankruptcy system.) And I'm not writing because I have any solution to the problem. Instead, I'm only make an observation: There are many people in America (I'd wager millions of them) who, because of massive debts, are frightened and alone. Although their attorneys provide them necessary legal direction, their needs extend further. They need a way to unify, a way to find others who are also experiencing this tragedy we call personal bankruptcy. They need this for their sanity--Scholars who study the effects of stress have noted that financial strain takes a huge toll on the psychological state of individuals and undermines couple relations. I would wager that one reason for this is because financial strains are often managed in isolation.


Thanks for saying that. I've been there-- it is completely isolating.
The shame is massive.

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