The UK prime minister David Cameron has become the first sitting PM to give a speech about mental health, according to the Independent . In this speech, he outlined plans to provide an additional £1 billion in funding for mental health services and some targets regarding treatment of mentally ill people. Now considering that mental health services are chronically underfunded within our otherwise pretty great NHS, I probably ought to. be thrilled. Trouble is, its hard to be so happy when Cameron's government is so determined to make people's mental health worse.
There's this idea that mental illness can hit anyone at any time, regardless of race, gender, social status etc. Whilst it is true that everyone from the wealthy socialite to the poor single parent can be affected by mental illness, guess who's more likely to suffer? Mental health problems are often precipitated by stress, grief and other hardships and there are few things in life more stressful than not having enough money to live on.
Slashing benefits, decimating and privatizing public services, eroding workers rights, all these things create the kinds of stressors that lead to mental health problems. When a pregnant person can't afford to heat their home because their housing benefit has been cut, that's a stressor. When someone has been fired unjustly but can't take their employer to court because legal aid has been slashed, that's a stressor. When a family is forced to move out of the community they've lived in for years because of soaring rents, that's a stressor.
I don't begrudge new funding for mental health services, I have no doubt it will do a lot of good. But you need to get your priorities straight. Prevention is the best cure. Make sure that people can afford to live. Make sure that peoples human rights are protected. Make sure that people aren't worried about not being able to eat or pay rent or heat their homes. Then I'll bet that the mental health of the nation will improve quite a bit.
Second generation British-Nigerian fat agender person. Style enthusiast, decent baker and lazy poet.
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