Seamus Sherlock, from Feoghanagh, Co Limerick, started the Life after Debt group after five people he knew took their own lives. The 45-year-old firmly believes stress over financial worries played a major part in the deaths of his friends.
“There are too many people taking their own lives and it has to stop. I’m getting up to 30 phonecalls a day from people who are worried about their future. They’re not all suicidal, but some are. I’m not a professional but a lot of these people just want someone to listen to them. A lot of people are lost.”
From 7pm to 10pm are Mr Sherlock’s busiest times for taking calls from concerned members of the public who make contact with him through word of mouth and via Facebook .
“Why do I do it? Well, why not. I’m in the same boat as all these people calling me. I’m barely hanging on. I didn’t intend to be doing this, but it has snowballed through word of mouth. If anything, it helps me keep my mind of my own situation. I’m not a professional, I’m just here to listen to people.”
He said more than 70% of people contacting him “are working people”, but “they don’t have enough money at the end of the month to eat after the bills are paid”.
“I know of some people who are watering down their milk, and driving their cars to work and they can’t afford to pay for car tax. These are people who have jobs but they have creditors screaming down the phone at them and they don’t know what to do.”
Mr Sherlock, who organised a march in Limerick at the weekend, said: “I’ve buried five friends since January and that’s five too many and I don’t intend to bury five more this year.”