Since declaring myself bankrupt in August 2013, I’ve noticed it a lot more in the news. That’s not to say it’s in the news more (or even less) often, merely that I notice it, having been through that process.
So I found the story yesterday about the suicide of Paul Bhattacharjee to be very sad. From the evidence, it looks like he had been declared bankrupt, and killed himself as a result.
Of course, that wasn’t the entire cause – his widow said he was a “proud” man who had a “darkness inside him that was irreparable”.
‘The bankruptcy was the final straw after a life of major highs and lows’
From a personal side, I can absolutely understand the perceived ‘shame’ of bankruptcy – and probably more so when someone else has declared you bankrupt rather than it being a decision made by yourself. It’s had a stigma for a very long time – and again, it’s an understandable stigma. It’s about saying ‘I can’t afford to pay my debts’, and should never be treated lightly.
However, from my own experience, I don’t think it is The End. In many ways it’s a new start, as I’ve said before. There is a shame, a pain to go with the process – and I wouldn’t recommend it to anyone without knowing their entire situation, or as anything except a last resort. It is emphatically not a quick fix, or a “get out of jail free” card.
But shameful? In these days of debt, loans, finance and borrowing? I don’t know that it’s as bad as it was even fifty years ago. It’s more commonplace certainly – although at the moment it appears that personal insolvencies and bankruptcies are falling (and have been since 2009)
(That graph comes from the Insolvency service, and is copyrighted to them)
I completely understand why someone would feel the stigma and shame of being declared bankrupt and feel the need to kill themselves as a result – and probably even more so when that person also already has a history and core of depression – but in many cases it is not The End. It is the end of the stress, the pain of being chased from pillar to post by creditors, the hassles of interest, mounting charges, and juggling finances, knowing that it’ll only take one tiny change or event to push you off the edge of the cliff.
It’s not an easy process – I know I’ve no intention of ever going through it again, and (as I’ve said already) I wouldn’t recommend it to people except as a final option. It is the death of many things, of the life you know, and sometimes of the things you have. It’s a loss, and as such perhaps is a thing to grieve, to regret, to learn from.
But what it also is, though, is a relief. A new start. An ability to rebuild your life from a stable foundation, to build everything back in a better, more stable – and a debt-free – manner. It’s a struggle, but it’s also a new life, if you allow it to be.