The debate around the Coronavirus pandemic has largely centered around preventing coronavirus deaths or economic damage. What has been largely left out is the serious impact the pandemic is having on the mental health of the working class. Particularly heavily affected are the unemployed and those in insecure employment, Black and minority ethnic communities, LGBT people, the disabled and women.
The young are most at risk, yet just 6.7% of local mental health funding is directed towards them. The NSPCC reckons 150 children are denied help every day – and each delay in diagnosis and treatment leads to more self-harm and suicide.
Over the past decade, mental health trusts have suffered annual cuts of 8%, a third of their beds have gone and there are 15% fewer mental health nurses. All this as demand has gone through the roof.
Like many of the other effects of this pandemic, the likelihood of someone developing a mental health condition depends largely on which class they are from. While the rich enjoy good living conditions, large gardens and plenty of space and are generally able to work safely from home, this is not the case for the working class.
Instead, workers find themselves crammed into overcrowded homes. They are forced out of the house to work, often in unsafe conditions, or sacked. Instead of shutting down unsafe workplaces, new lockdown restrictions target family gatherings and support networks, leaving people socially isolated.
Despite the Tories’ pledge to achieve parity between mental and physical health, budgets for mental health trusts in England fell by £105 million in real terms between 2012 and 2018. Research into mental health accounts for only 5.5% of NHS research budget.
Privatisation is another hidden cut. Out of £2.1 billion worth of mental health contracts between 2013 and 2018, £1.2 billion went to profiteers. Incresingly GPs refer parents to go private, so inadequate is the NHS.
For the capitalists, mental health conditions are viewed simply as excuses not to work. This approach is hardwired into the capitalist system, which treats the worker as a commodity and a means to generate profits rather than a human being, leading to stigma and discrimination againt those with mental health issues.
As part of our programme for a socialist solution to the crisis, we demand funding to:
- massively expand and fully fund NHS mental health provision under workers’ and community control
- nationalisation, without compensation, of the private sector and linking it to schools, social services, etc.
- the recruitment and training of more mental health and school nurses and counsellors.
But only socialism is capable of prioritising the development of each individual over private profits and thereby solving the mental health crisis.
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