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Armed Forces Day: Veteran Liam urges others to ask for help after getting nearly £20,000 debt cleared

An army veteran who racked up nearly £20,000 in debt has said he wants to help break the stigma surrounding mental health and money worries among ex-forces personnel.

Liam Murphy, 41, from Wellington, has shared his story ahead of Armed Forces Day on Saturday, in the hope of showing others facing their own struggles that there is help out there.

Things got so bad for Liam that he tried to take his own life twice as he could not see another way out of his situation, but he is now looking to the future after the Money Matters team at The Wrekin Housing Group was able to clear his debt with the help of armed forces charity SSAFA.

Liam joined the Army after growing up in the care system, having already been diagnosed with adolescent schizophrenia at the age of eight.

While he enjoyed his time in the Army, it took its toll on his mental health, particularly after a close friend he had joined up with was killed in Iraq.

He said: “I’d had enough, I wanted a new challenge. I was sick of going to funerals as well.

“I came out of the regular Army in 2007 and then spent about eight years with the TA (Territorial Army).”

After leaving the military, Liam worked at an independent school and spent time traveling, but started to lose control of his personal finances due to his ongoing mental health struggles.

He said: “When I was in a manic or a depressive episode I would just go and get stuff on credit, and I wouldn’t know about it until I’d come out of that situation and letters and bills would start arriving.

“It just built up and built up over the years, it was not good.”

Liam said his biggest problem was easily-accessible payday loans. He said: “You used to be able to get a payday loan and then go back on their website half an hour later and get another one. I did it once all day and got £1,500. That’s how easy it was.

He moved to Telford in 2019 and entered into an Individual Voluntary Arrangement (IVA) in an attempt to face up to his debt problems. However, after having to leave his job, the repayments of nearly £300 a month became unaffordable.

He was offered a flat with Wrekin in 2021, but unknowingly started to build up rent arrears as he didn’t realise his Universal Credit wasn’t covering the full amount.

Liam accepted things could not go on as they were, and agreed to be referred to the group’s Money Matters team.

He said: “I don’t like asking for help really. A lot of squaddies don’t, which is why a lot of guys commit suicide and have undiagnosed PTSD, because they don’t like asking for help.”

Debt advisor Lois Alexander worked with Liam to establish exactly what he owed, and what options were available. Because of Liam’s military background, Lois reached out to SSAFA and the charity agreed to pay his rent arrears of almost £800.

She was also able to get Liam out of the IVA and into a Debt Relief Order, clearing the other £18,000 he owed.

Liam said receiving the call confirming the DRO was a huge relief. He said: “I can look forward to things now.

“I don’t have to be scared of the postman – I’ve missed appointments because I wouldn’t open my mail.”

He now has a message to other veterans: “It is scary but look at the outcome. I’d advise anyone that’s in the same situation to not hide away from it.

“As veterans we’ve done stuff that we don’t like, we’ve seen stuff that we can’t un-see.

“But there are other people in the same boat. Ask for help, there’s no point letting it build up.”

Lois was also able to help Liam with benefits applications and budgeting to ensure he does not slip back into debt.

Lois said: “Liam has worked hard to engage with us, and it is thanks to this willingness that we have been able to secure such a positive outcome.

“After all Liam has been through it is fantastic to see him get the fresh start he needed in order to get his life back on track.

“It is also a great example of how Wrekin works with charity partners, and we are hugely grateful for the support SSAFA has been able to offer Liam in this case.”

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