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Wednesday, 1 April 2015

'Mental illnesses' and us

An open letter to What Doctors Don't Tell You magazine by Dude Swheatie of Kwug

Thank you for the article 'Mama, We're All Crazy Now' (WDDTY, March 2015 issue).

Much attention has been given recently to the ‘soundness of mind’ of airline pilots etc who have others’ lives in their hands, and too little attention to the ‘soundness of mind’ and ‘fitness for purpose’ of the ‘key decision makers’ who too easily walk away from the disasters they create without a public enquiry. A General Election is a time to help redress the latter matter, as voters get to decide who they want to design the nation's ways into the future.

Incidentally, I’ve noticed that those most in favour of ‘deregulation’ — aka ‘cutting red tape’ — seem to be the most voluble proponents of regulating the lives of poorer people via benefit caps, claimant commitment, etc. And they also have the most to gain by adopting the definitions of ‘mental illnesses’ defined in the ‘Bible’ of the American Psyciatric Assn such as ‘ODD’ or ‘oppositional defiant dysfuntion’. Such diagnoses are cues for applying the chemical cosh, and the article points to the tie-ins with Big Pharma.

Benefit sanctions are applied with the excuse of ‘doubt’ rather than ‘reasonable doubt’ and so half of 'reconsidered' (pre-appeal) benefit sanctions are overturned when challenged.(1) The application of a sanction on the basis of ‘doubt’ without reason is an example of authoritarianism.

The fiscal cosh is applied promiscuously to those who dare to claim out-of-work-benefits.(2) Sanctions lower the claimant count and intensify poverty. Those sanctioned who do not kowtow to illegitimate authority are those most likely to get their benefits reinstated after a benefit sanction. The 'welfare to work' industry is not Ofsted regulated and 'paid by results'. So, naturally, US-based companies in the ‘welfare to work service industry’ who have applied the fiscal cosh even more indiscriminately than UK jobcentre staff would love the licence to apply the chemical cosh to their sanctions fodder who are justifiably defiant, too!

Yet Psychologists Against Austerity (PAA) has produced a paper 'The Psychological Impact of Austerity', 
"[directly linking] cuts to public services with mental health problems. Well-established psychological research that explains these links already exists. However, this knowledge has been missing from the debate on austerity so far."(3) 
 PAA also 
"use the terms 'emotional wellbeing', 'distress' and 'mental health problems' rather than 'mental illness' ... because there is disagreement about whether emotional difficulties are best understood as a product of individual pathology, or a consequence of toxic environments and difficult life experiences."


(4)  ibid., p. 2

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