PEOPLE dealing with financial stress are eight times more likely to seek help for a mental health problem.

Research conducted by the Scottish Association for Mental Health (SAMH) suggests the current economic situation has had a damaging impact on the mental wellbeing of Scots.

It also claims that recent welfare reforms have compounded stress and hampered hopes of recovery.

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Billy Watson, chief executive of SAMH, said: "From our own research we know that those affected by the recent economic downturn - in ways like losing their jobs or taking a pay cut - are eight times more likely to have sought help for a mental health problem for the first time. Constant worries about how to pay bills and rent, or not having enough money for food and fuel, can exacerbate the situation and lead to further stress and anxiety.

"Worryingly, we know that there is a significant increase in the number of people using food banks and making calls to agencies such as the Citizens Advice Bureau on the topic of their debt, both indicators of the growing problem.

"Recent welfare reforms concern us as many people with mental health problems are simply too unwell to work, leaving them reliant on welfare support."

Last year, SAMH conducted a survey of the people it supports.

It found that 98% of its respondents claimed recent welfare reforms had impacted their mental health, causing added stress and anxiety.

The research also found 48% were less able to pursue activities that could help them recover.

Despite its prevalence, Watson notes that of the many Scots who suffer from mental health issues as a result of financial worries, the vast majority do not actively seek help or support.

He said: "Less than 17% of those in debt seek help for money worries simply because they don't know what is available or even that they are entitled to support.

"It is more important than ever that people are able to get good advice and support for their mental health."