Mental Health Awareness Week

This week is Mental Health Awareness Week . What an excellent time for the Conservatives to pledge an extra 10,000 mental health staff by 2020 – it’s surely just minor carelessness that they’ve managed to lose 4,800 mental health staff on their current watch so far.

Our mental health services are so inadequately resourced that The Chief Inspector of Constabulary thinks the police are being asked to provide care services in cells. “In a well ordered and compassionate society we should not rely on law enforcement to support people who need medical care.
With an estimated one in ten young people having a mental health problem this is not a matter for the police alone.”

And the police themselves are not immune. According to the Police Dependants Trust (Nov 16) mental health illnesses are twice as likely to force them to take significant time off work than physical injuries (42% against 21%).

Meanwhile the unceasing reduction of state and municipal public services only increases uncertainty for everyone and makes people feel less cared for – convincing them that they are on their own.

Evidence from the Joseph Rowntree Foundation shows that children from the poorest families are four times more likely than rich ones to experience several mental health problems growing up. And indeed 1 in 4 people in the UK will experience a mental health problem each year. This statistic alone is surely an indictment of the way our society now functions.

The lesson from all this is unsurprising: inadequate resources cause mental health problems.

It follows that the austerity agenda in and of itself leads to more mental distress, incurring unnecessary suffering on the one hand and unnecessary expense on the other.

The cure, of course, is to go for a good well paid job. Yet we all know these are diminishing in number. The only remaining option is  to lever up your earnings by borrowing. But borrowing incurs interest, an obligation and debt. Indebtedness increases stress. I know, I only managed to hang on to the house by the skin of my teeth.

So we are becoming more and more personally indebted. Aside from mortgage debt, it has now risen to about £13,000 for every household in Britain.

Everyone is now trained in debt – starting with higher education, then on to credit cards, cars and more and more expensive housing. These are not usually called debt but ‘financial products’ and are all a step along the way to what is seen as getting on – and all, to a greater or lesser extent, are bad for stress and for your mental health.

So Britain’s specialist industry, financial services, is bad for mental health.

So is the political dogma of shrinking the state.

In Austerity Britain every week is Mental Health Awareness Week.



  1. Sean Danaher -

    So true Peter. We need some good news stories to keep our spirits up though! I have suffered from depression in the past; feel depressed now but probably induced by the state of UK politics rather than clinical depression!

  2. Peter May -

    Probably read too much RD Laing in my youth. (I think it was him) He considered mental illness was often a sane response to an insane world.
    And I believe that politicians rarely if ever consider what mental pressures their actions put on their fellow citizens. Particularly when they try to maintain that it is all because there is no money and and then categorise us as strivers or skivers. If they organised society a bit differently they could save money as well!

  3. Grace Sutherland -

    Hi Peter,
    I had also written a piece on Mental Health Awareness and didn’t submit it when I saw yours as it would have been overkill. I agree wholeheartedly with the great R.D.Laing.
    It might be healthier to see depression as a perfectly appropriate human response to the kind of world we have created for ourselves.

    1. Sean Danaher -

      Grace my own feeling is that the UK and US at least lost their way towards the end of the 1970’s. However since Brexit I alternate between anger and depression.

  4. Grace Sutherland -

    I agree Sean. I too suffer low level depression that alternates with anger as you described and it is related to a kind of helplessness and frustration about the current state of things. Anger is a justified response although it’s not a helpful one. There are so many things going wrong all at once -it’s like total system collapse. You might say that if you’re not depressed you’re not paying attention. However, I can also see the bigger picture that is beyond party politics. Breakdown is never the end of the story, there will come breakthrough too in time to a better system that serves more of us and not just the top few percent with all the power and money.
    I had thought I wouldn’t offer my short article on Mental Health awareness but since it contains some simple antidotes to the kind of low level depression suffered by so many I might post it anyway. What do you think?

    1. Peter May -

      Don’t know about Sean. I’d be all in favour! Antidotes to depression would be welcome I’d say.
      Do you have any for the screaming abdabs?

      1. Grace Sutherland -

        Ah the abidabidoos? Na… the only way out is through I find!
        Ok will upload later on today thank you Peter.

      2. Jeni Parsons aka havantaclu -

        Looking forward to reading it!

        Although a long-term sufferer from depression, I’ve only recently been given some of the tools to combat it. I think I’m through – but time will tell!

  5. Mark Crown -

    One of my management gurus from the MBA I completed in 2014 is Manfred Kets de Vries who wrote a book called ‘The Happiness Equation’ (I lent it to someone and never got it back) and from his experience working with leaders and their mental health issues he thought that people needed 3 key things in their life as a basis for happiness:

    1. Someone to love (or to love them)
    2. Something to do.
    3. Something to look forward to or work towards.

    I have just completed a Mental Health First Aid course at work and from what I can tell I might be very busy especially if/when May gets back in with her coterie of pathological economic wreckers!

    Unemployment and economic disparity seemed to be the associated sources of a whole host of mental health issues and here we are with BREXIT, austerity and policies such as the underfunding of health and education all aimed at making those things worse in order to get ‘consent’ to privatise further.

    De Vries also talks about something else that I think is crucial: authenticity.

    In an era of fake news authenticity is sadly lacking. I often find authenticity in blogs like this and others which keeps me sane – yet when you look at some of the nonsense that is thrown at us by technology and the media that poses itself as authentic (the size of Kim Kardashian’s bottom for example) it is easy to see why people are so confused about what is important and therefore rendered fundamentally unhappy enough to be able to be moulded and infected with anti-social sentiment by the likes of UKIP, the Daily Mailevolent and the Tories. People are being diverted away from what is important (what they need to know in order to affect change and improve their lives) all of the time.

    Can modern politics deliver authenticity?

    I think that Saunders can and did and Labour maybe might be able to – they have taken a step closer (the Greens always have for me of late). When Foot wrote his ‘longest suicide note in history’ in the early 80’s, neo-liberalism was still in its infancy in Britain. But now, after nearly 30 years, I think it is more than fair to say that neo-liberalism has not worked. It’s dead but we can’t seem to get the life support machine turned off.

    The problem is are the public able to discern authenticity? With more and more people affected by necrotising Tory policies I think that they just might be able to. Theresa May talking about being concerned about mental health whilst at the same time under funding those services may not pass muster with many of the public.

    We shall see – but I do expect mental health issues in this country to get worse as a mixture of rampant uncontrolled technological advance (designed to increase returns to investors that actually transfers wealth to the top 10%) and out dated views on state support of economic activity and state funding for health and education which continues to deteriorate.

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