Mental ill-health: asking why

My contribution to the debate on mental health at TUC Disabled Workers’ Conference 2017:

I’m speaking in support of all the motions on mental health, but especially the one from the Chartered Society of Physiotherapists, as that is the one that acknowledges that workplaces are causing mental distress.

There is now a lot more talking about mental health than there used to be. That is very welcome.

However, most of it takes the form of ‘There are these mentally-ill people … we need to do more for them.’ That’s true, but we also need to ask: what is making poeple mentally unwell?

A few weeks ago, I heard a Tory MP on the radio – I was in bed and couldn’t get up fast enough to turn it off! – and he boasted that more people were accessing mental health services under the Conservative government than under any previous government. Firstly, that is remarkable given the cuts they have made to mental health services, such as getting rid of 10,000 nurses. But secondly, it did not seem to have crossed his mind that perhaps this was because more people needed to access mental health services under this government and that that is not necessarily a thing to boast about.

We live in an increasingly distressing society – social pressure, competitiveness, overwork, insecurity, sensory overload etc. 

Working conditions make us sick. Austerity makes us sick. Capitalism makes us sick.

Of course we need more mental health awareness, more mental health support, more mental health services.

But we also need to make a mentally-healthy society – one that does not make us so distressed and unwell.

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