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Austerity and neoliberalism are bad for our health and wellbeing

 

Goodness, what a turn-up for the books! The International Monetary Fund has now stated that neoliberalism and its accompanying policies of austerity and rising inequality are a bad thing, even for the economy let alone for people’s mental and physical health and wellbeing. Inequality is recognised as particularly pernicious, and it has increased drastically via a system that has bettered the financial lot of the very very few at the expense of most people, and also at the expense of a thriving economy. The health and mental health effects of this have been shocking, as I show below.

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Diabetes, soaring health costs and investing in children's psychological lives

Recently there has been a scurry of worrying statistics about a diabetes epidemic. Headlines suggest that diabetes is threatening to bankrupt the NHS, that there has been a 60% rise in cases in the past 10 years. Amazingly 3.3 million apparently are diagnosed with the disease, up 1.2 million in the last 10 years. Some predict further huge increases in the coming decades.

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Austerity, psychological help and challenging neoliberalism

 

Huge cuts to benefits and services are about to hit millions of Britons which will exacerbate the troubled and troubling times we are living in.  In the UK in the last 35 years the social fabric has dramatically changed,  the Bevanite settlement and welfare state has been profoundly (possibly irreversibly) pulled apart. Since the end of the cold war we have seen the seemingly relentless march of neoliberalism and untamed capitalism, the spread of  globalisation, and of  rising inequality. The world many grew up in and expected to continue is on the retreat and many in the helping professions such as psychotherapists feel the need to find a response which articulates our core beliefs and hopes. This is maybe all the more urgent as attempts are made to co-opt psychotherapy into neoliberal agendas with worrying implications. We have seen a spate of protests about the ways in which the government treats  those who need to claim what we used to call social security and is now derisorily called ‘welfare’  Mental health workers have staged protests against attempts to integrate mental health clinics with jobcentres,  and groups such as the alliance for psychotherapy and counselling are increasingly making their opposition  heard.

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Austerity, psychotherapy and worsening mental health

 

An important letter and accompanying report was published in the national press this week abhorring the effects of austerity and neoliberal politics on mental health services and on mental health generally . This is timely, not just because of the election, but because of the spiraling risks for now and for the future. Anyone working in services knows how they are being severely cut, making it harder and harder to access the kind of help that is needed. Only short-term ‘revolving door’ services are available to people in very serious need. Children’s mental health services are the most poorly funded, much less than adult mental health services which in turn have a fraction of health budgets. As an investigation by the charity Young Minds recently showed, children’s mental health services are in crisis.

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