Top prof tells the banks, 'I'll blame you for suicides'
Psychiatrist targets lenders on behalf of patients feeling strain over increased financial pressures
A leading psychiatrist is writing to banks on behalf of vulnerable patients telling them he will hold them responsible in the event of a patient's suicide.
Dr Ivor Browne says he has been seeking out the names of bank staff responsible for the pressure his patients are under before issuing them with the formal notice.
Dr Browne, former chief psychiatrist of the Eastern Health Board, said the action is "making waves" in favour of patients who can no longer cope with mounting pressure.
"I am hearing people who are being hassled and who are being threatened that their homes will be repossessed," Dr Browne said.
"I am writing letters to the banks holding them personally responsible if this man commits suicide."
"Unless you can make them take personal responsibility, it is very difficult to get at them," he said.
"I would write to the individual who would seem to be implicated. The name that I can get," he explained, adding "I think it is making waves in the background".
In a call to other health professionals who are treating people in similar circumstances, Dr Browne said these exceptional times called for direct action: "I am there to try to help in whatever way I can, and if there is something or someone that is clearly putting unfair pressure on patients, then I think that you have to address that."
A move by health professionals who are concerned about the welfare of their patients could lead banks to rethink their debt-collection strategy – for fear of future lawsuits.
The Master of the High Court has previously warned that the banks are driving some borrowers who can not pay their debts to suicide.
Ed Honohan, brother of Central Bank governor Patrick Honohan, said he had dealt with several debt cases where the borrowers had subsequently taken their own lives.
The news comes as suicide campaigners have accused lending institutions of adding to the suicide crisis by harassing people crippled by debt and struggling to cope with the recession.
Paul Kelly, CEO of Console, welcomed the move by Dr Browne and called on other clinicians to take action if they made a "good clinical decision" that a person's life may be in danger.
"If their client is at risk and in great distress, and the clinician or therapist has a fear their patient could take their own life, then banks need to be made fully aware of this and steps need to be taken to ensure the individual is protected," he said.
He added: "We are dealing with calls every day where people feel suicidal because of the pressure from banks and lending institutions. In one case, we dealt with a man who walked out of the bank after his loans were foreclosed and he took his own life. People are telling us 'I would be better off dead' rather than continue with the pressure they are being put under."