Monthly Archives: March 2014

Bedroom Tax: Impact on Mental Healt

Caerphilly Bed Tax Speech Mar 14

Mental Health – not just mental illness.
• If we’ve got mental health, we’re lucky, and we should value it.
• If we haven’t got it, we still might not be mentally ill – just been through too much shit.
• Doctors like to say all mental health problems are ‘illnesses’ – wrong chemicals in the brain
* From personal experience
* Working experience
I know that loads of people considered mentally ill have suffered trauma
• Trauma can be:
* Major one-off events
* Major long-term distress
* And the sort of stress that we could cope with short term – but it just goes on and on.
All contributing to mental health problems – whether we call them ‘illness’ or not.
• Welfare ‘reform’ – the Bedroom tax presents that last sort of stress. The difficulties we could cope with as a one off – but it just goes on and on.
• I’m going to invent a new ‘mental illness’ today:
BROWNENVELOPOPHOBIA
ie Fear of getting a brown envelope through the door, threatening:
* Loss of income
* Debt collection
* A difficult and distressing appointment (WCA for instance)
* EVICTION
• Except fear of all those things isn’t a phobia, it’s perfectly natural. They’re reasonable things to fear if they might happen in your life. And for all too many people, they might indeed happen. Any of them, all of them.
• So what does constant living in fear do to people?
* For people with existing mental health problems, it just makes the whole problem worse.
Any possibility of getting to grips with ‘how to live my life with the pain I’m already carrying’
just disappears. And yes, it is possible to get to grips with it, but you need safety and the
right kind of support to do it.
* For those people, the constant fear of welfare so-called ‘reform’ – including the Bedroom Tax can lead to:
* increased medication ⇨ yet more symptoms that make people think you’re ‘weird’.
* Erratic behaviour ⇨ social isolation, cutting you off from the support you need
* Hospitalisation
* suicide

* And what about those of us who didn’t have mental health problems in the first place. What do you think living in constant fear does to us? It creates mental health problems. Depression, Acute anxiety, panic attacks.
• And what do the mental health services report is happening?
* Well, the idea was that we didn’t need to be shut away in hospitals any more, we could be cared for in our own
But that needs secure homes. Not the Bedroom Tax! Now they’re finding there aren’t enough hospital places – how strange!
* Increasing numbers of people with mental health problems.
* Staff are getting overloaded
* Staff are developing mental health problems, they can’t help people – after all, the problems come from the Bedroom Tax – people don’t need counselling or medication, they just need enough money to live on. Staff are trained to help people come to terms with all sorts of stuff – but what can they do about the simple fact that people have been hit by a cruel and meaningless tax that leaves them no money to live on? Leaving them to choose between starvation and eviction?

• And then, there’s the children. What did I say about living in long-term stress? Yes, it can cause mental health problems. Especially if it happens when we’re young.
* Children who today are growing up in stress
* Going to school hungry – that’s stress. It also means they’re less likely to benefit from education
* Coming home hungry
* Going with parents to whatever places where there might be free food: foodbanks, churches, drop-in services.
* Going without in the hope that Mum might actually eat something
* Worrying about parents who seem to be depressed and anxious a lot of the time
* They may even be in fear themselves if they’re old enough to know that the family might be evicted.
• This Bedroom Tax, along with all the other so-called ‘reforms’ are creating the mental health problems of the future.
* Today’s children, growing up in this horrendously stressful environment are going to be vulnerable.
* Oh, not all of them will suffer mental health problems. Some of them will come out of it as
real fighters for a better world. Some of them might even come out of it as tomorrow’s left-wing politicians!
* Some might end up with a criminal record – desperation for some way to find a better life
can lead people in strange directions
* And some will come out of it emotionally, and I would even say spiritually, damaged.
With their hopes broken. With no view of any way to live a decent life.

• And so I say this Bedroom Tax is an absolute disaster for mental health.
* It destroys what efforts towards mental health that the people who are ‘mentally ill’ might struggle towards.
* It undermines the mental health of those who did have mental health before this hit them. And valued it!
* And it savages the future chances of mental health of a whole generation of children.

And so the Bedroom Tax has to GO.
Axe the Bedroom Tax!