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.