Having borne personal testimony to the never-ending cuts to mental health services, clinical psychologists across the country are uniting to say enough is enough. On Monday morning in Leicester, a determined group of professionals will therefore be stepping outside the therapy room in the name of social justice, embarking on their first political campaign: a march to London no less.
Since 2010, funding to local authorities has been slashed by a whopping 40%. The lies of austerity touch all of us, and the government’s attacks on mental health funding are intimately entwined with this. So, as these newly inspired clinicians put it, now is the time to “Walk the Talk.”
Their hundred mile walk for justice will see these dedicated and publicly-engaged clinicians arrive at the headquarters of the British Psychological Society in London this Friday afternoon – to much fanfare, no doubt. Their point being to raise awareness of the totally unnecessary social policies that are contributing to increasing levels of psychological distress amongst us all.
As the walkers point out, momentum is growing amongst psychologists who are pressing for social inequalities to be addressed by politicians. This event follows hot-on-the-heels of their position statement (drafted by clinical and health psychologists) which calls upon on policy makers to address the impact social inequalities have on mental health.
This newly formed group are clear that many mental health problems are “primarily… a consequence of poverty and material deprivation.” Given how hard this city’s population has been hit by Tory austerity, Leicester is certainly as good a place any to start their walk.
“[N]early 40 per cent of children in the city are classed as being in poverty,” reported the Leicester Mercury last October, with “more than 26,500 city children living below the poverty line.”
Local mental service provision in Leicester, as elsewhere, is also being cut apace – in this instance by a Labour-led Council seemingly content to plead that there is no alternative to Tory cuts (see “Mental health services gutted by Labour cuts”). This uninspiring political posturing helps to explain why none of Leicester’s 52 Labour councillors are backing Jerermy Corbyn’s enthralling leadership campaign.
Although this group of clinicians were first brought together through social media, this June they organised a sell-out conference titled “Clinical Psychology: Beyond the Therapy Room,” a conference whose collective radical ethos enthuses their activism.
One of their co-organizers, Stephen Weatherhead, a recent President of the British Psychological Society, is determined to bring an end to poverty and health inequities. At Sunday’s launch meeting, Dr Weatherhead explained that is was plain wrong that Britain is ranked as the most unequal society in Europe.
As Dr Weatherhead sees it: “If Britain had the worst football team in Europe, there is no end to the money our leaders would pump into it; but when it comes to addressing the fact that we have the worst level of inequality nothing is done at all.” Something is clearly wrong: “politicians and their policy makers appear to be completely detached from normal people’s lives!”
Dr Weatherhead is right when he says the government is taking us back to the Victorian era, and on the sad rise of food bank Britain, he correctly points out that food bank are “simply Dickensian, and shouldn’t be a need for them in this day and age.”
But a more optimistic Victorian writer than Charles Dickens, who rallied against inequality, was the socialist Frederick Engels, who wrote of the need for a new more humane social order that would dispense with social murder. Social murder being characterised such as the condition whereby government policies place “workers under conditions in which they can neither retain health nor live long; [such] that it undermines the vital force of these workers gradually, little by little, and so hurries them to the grave before their time.”
For too long, fear, combined with the media scapegoating of the poor, has immobilised far too many people… but now fear is subsiding, and hope is beginning to emerge.
For the determined clinicians who are prepared to ‘walk the talk’, this week’s journey will help them to help popularise a positive message of social change, enabling them to contribute towards building the type of momentum that we need in this country to finally bring an end to inequality.
To see the intrepid walkers off on their way, meet at the Leicester offices of the British Psychological Society (48 Princess Road East Leicester LE1 7DR) just before 9.30am. http://walkthetalk2015.org/walk
Read their leaflet here http://walkthetalk2015.org/sites/default/files/wtt2015_leaflet.pdf