Crushing debt faced by residents in Highland Perthshire has left some with suicidal thoughts.
The revelation comes from a charity set up 12 months ago to help people escape the misery of their financial troubles.
About a third of those who have contacted the Christians Against Poverty (CAP) debt counselling centre in Aberfeldy admitted to considering taking their lives when they first called for help.
Centre manager Angela Hanvey and her team, which is drawn from church congregations across Highland Perthshire, found many had plunged deep into debt and despair before finally seeking assistance.
The shocking findings are reflective of the debt woes being faced by people across the region many of whom have no previous experience of financial hardship.
In August, Perth Citizens Advice revealed residents with total debts approaching £10 million had turned to local services over the previous 12 months.
It found that stricken people increasingly had no past history of monetary woes, while the largest increase in those seeking help came from those in employment.
In addition, the Perth and Kinross Foodbank has been stunned by the level of demand for its services, forcing it to move to bigger premises in Perth and establish satellite outlets across the region.
Highland ward councillor Mike Williamson said it was “deeply concerning” people were finding themselves in such levels of debt.
Mr Williamson, who attended the charity’s launch in November 2013, said services were themselves becoming financially stretched by the level of demand for their help.
The CAP debt counselling centre launched in November 2013 and, as it celebrates its first anniversary, its team of support workers believe they have been able to make an important difference within the community.
The centre is part of a growing UK-wide network of centres led by local churches trained to help tackle debt problems in partnership with financial experts at CAP’s head office.
It provides a free, face-to-face service in the community and Ms Hanvey said it had been “a great joy” for she and her team of support workers to help people through their darkest times and out the other side.
“We know this service is literally saving lives, as research shows around a third of clients are feeling suicidal when they first call for debt help,” she said.
“It’s been a great privilege to help people to see a way forward during this first year.”
“We go into people’s homes often when they are at their very lowest.
“Thankfully we then we get to see their hope restored as they discover there is a way out, however bad it looks to them.”
The service is free and available to all regardless of age, gender, faith or background.
Ms Hanvey added: “I would urge anyone in the local community to contact me if they are concerned about personal debt.”