Welfare, employment and mental health in the 21st century.

It cannot have been a coincidence that this year’s theme for World Mental Health Day was centred around the workplace. It certainly reflects a world in which working is seen as the epitome of recovery, rather like the top of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs triangle. According to this mindset, self-actualisation is achieved by having a full time job and becoming one of those infamous ‘hard working people’ that the Tories regularly talk about when trying to butter up that section of the electorate who pay their taxes to keep MPs in the manner to which they are accustomed.

I don’t know which alternate reality the UK government live in, but in this universe jobs are no guarantee of recovery, in fact they can often impede it, and exacerbate symptoms of mental health problems. Given that many people end up ill precisely because of their jobs, where they often spend most of their day, it seems bizarre that anyone would make a sweeping generalisation about work being helpful to those with emotional or psychological issues, and being a sign of complete wellness. On the other hand, if you follow the doctrine of neoliberalism it makes perfect sense, as the idea of minimalist state assistance is at its core. Things like the welfare state and the NHS are examples of socialism, are therefore evil and must be demolished.

Of course this is disguised as ‘austerity cuts’. The fact is that austerity hasn’t worked, and it is only a smokescreen for a neoliberal agenda. It has been established, even by the IMF, that neoliberalism and austerity cuts stunt growth and increase inequality. This of course is no problem for those who implement these policies as they are too rich and powerful to be adversely affected. But it affects everyone else and in many cases ruins what lives they had. An unstable job market where ‘flexibility’ is the key buzz word, zero hours contracts and the constant fear of being made unemployed and unable to put food on the table is not likely to promote good mental health. And when it comes to people with diagnosed mh problems, the idea that they can deal with their illness and all the added stressors of modern day employment is a sick joke.

We all know that thousands of people have died as a result of the Tories’ welfare cuts, through procedures like the Work Capability Assessment (unless you only read the mainstream media, in which case I can only presume you have stumbled across this page by accident and think that is ‘fake news’). People are starving to death, becoming more unwell after being denied payments for things as ridiculous as not turning up for a job centre appointment when you never received any notice of said appointment taking place, and taking their own lives as existing any longer just prolongs the living hell of being threatened by the DWP and there seems to be no end to it. If the public had had the foresight to vote in the Labour Party, under Jeremy Corbyn, it’s quite possible that many lives could have been saved, as they had pledged to end the WCA and make PIP (Personal Independence Payment) assessments fairer, although what they meant by ‘fairer’ was not made clear. Not that you would know this if you watch the MSM, as they have completely ignored the subject of welfare cuts and the Tory driven breach of human rights as stated by the UN on several occasions. Now with Brexit and the scrapping of the Human Rights Act, along with the ability of the government to bypass Parliament and rubber stamp Bills without a debate or Commons vote through the Henry VIII powers, it seems that things can only get worse for all of us. In fact the Tories have already started ignoring embarrassing defeats in Westminster, as shown by last night’s Universal Credit debate which they lost unanimously. UC will be rolled out as planned even though it will leave many people without money for 6 weeks and force them to use food banks. The fact that the Tories get away with this (apart from the fact that the MSM does not report such defeats) shows that the wider public has no time for benefit claimants, and consider them a burden which is expendable; indeed, less than human.

As someone with mental health issues I am used to being treated as a subspecies and whenever I have had jobs I rarely mention any diagnoses as I know that the mentally ill are deemed even lower than the average benefit claimant. Stigma is a real problem, especially when applying for jobs. The double standards of the general public on this is astounding. On the one hand they want us to stop being lazy scroungers and get a job, as obviously all people with mh problems are not really ill, just playing the system, but on the other hand we might be dangerous, and most likely stupid/inept, as after all we are nutters, and no one wants to work alongside one of those.

I remember one job I had working in a kitchen where the people I worked with knew of my problems (I told them I had depression). One day I picked up a knife and walked across the room to use it to chop up some food. A ‘colleague’ told me that he wondered what I was going to do with it. That kind of ignorance about mh issues is pretty widespread in society. If you have a job and have mh problems the chances are that you deal with any triggers or stressors on your own, as people just don’t understand (or want to understand) mental illness. This is of course added pressure and if you live in a small town (like me) you have the extra worry that someone will know you from somewhere and identify you as a nutjob. People are never the same with you again after they find out that you are officially a headcase. They either ignore you, abuse you or are extra specially nice to you, presumably in case you produce an axe from your trouser pocket and start hacking them to death if they say anything remotely negative about you. But that of course assumes that you got the job and were honest about having a mental illness, which is unlikely, especially if you have something like schizophrenia. Yet people with such a diagnosis are told they have to look for work, when they cannot be honest about their health and expect to be ‘successful’ in being employed, and even if they were, there wouldn’t get support at their job and would be ostracised, making them more paranoid and increasing the chance of a relapse or hospital admission. Why the Tories think it is worth pursuing this vindictive welfare policy when it clearly costs more than it saves is beyond any naïve member of the public, but some of us know they are not called ‘the Nasty Party’ for nothing.

Until mh stigma is eradicated for ALL mental health diagnoses there should be an acknowledgement by the government that it is more difficult to get a job when suffering from a mental illness. It is also obvious that when in a job anyone with mh problems/who is disabled should be well supported and have access to a ‘work counsellor’ who they can offload any worries and stressors to. This doesn’t have to be exclusively available to those with diagnoses/disabilites; anyone who is stressed or unhappy in their job should be eligible for such a service. Of course this would cost money, which apparently is the main reason for welfare cuts, that and the idea that work is the best route to recovery. It is unlikely therefore that every workplace will be obliged to employ an internal counselling service/support system for people with disabilities/mh problems. But was that ever the real reason for cutting disability payments? Some of us can see a parallel in the actions of our government and that of the Nazi government of the 1930s. But contrary to their ideals, work is no guarantee of recovery, or measure of good mental health. It is nothing more than a means of surviving for most people, which is another reason why so many hate those on benefits; jealousy. For the Tories the glorification of work and shrinking of the welfare state is a good excuse to euthanise those who need state support to exist, and with a faithful MSM and a dumbed down society they can get away with anything, literally, anything.

Seroquel Susie

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