Mental health experts’ concerns over government plans

Topics covered: Ridouts professional advice

According to a letter sent to the Guardian newspaper by hundreds of mental health experts, austerity cuts are having a ‘profoundly disturbing’ impact on people’s psychological wellbeing and the emotional state of the nation.

In the letter, over 400 psychotherapists, counsellors and academics said that an ‘intimidatory disciplinary regime’ facing benefits claimants would be made worse by further ‘unacceptable’ proposals outlined in the budget. These amounted to state ‘get to work’ therapy and were both damaging and professionally unethical, they said.

The letter’s writers said it ‘sounds the starting bell for a broadly based campaign of organisations and professionals against the damage that neoliberalism is doing to the nation’s mental health.’

The letter’s supporters included psychotherapist and writer Susie Orbach. She called the Conservative manifesto proposal ‘beyond shocking’ and said: ‘It undermines the fundamental principles of one’s right to physical and mental care – that you have to be able to consent and that the people you go to have to be highly trained and have your best interests and aren’t meeting targets.’

A Conservative spokesman said: ‘Under this government inequality has fallen, child poverty is down and there are now 1.9 million more people in jobs than there were at the last election. We have legislated to ensure mental health is treated equally to physical health, and are introducing new waiting time standards.’ The party spokesman added: ‘Overall spending on mental health has increased, including over £400m to make a choice of psychological therapies available for everyone who needs them. We will continue to invest in mental health and are committed to spending an additional £1.25bn over the course of the next parliament. All of this is only possible because our plans are backed by a strong economy.’

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