In today’s article, Beccie Ions talks about the mental health crisis in this country and what we as young people can do about it. Beccie is from Leeds where she has just completed here Masters in Social Policy. Her main interests are mental health, class inequalities & education. Beccie is currently the Chair of GMB Yorkshire & North Derbyshire Young Members & Secretary of GMB Young Members nationally. Beccie is also on the Young Labour committee as a trade union representative.
The issue of mental health, in Britain, over the past few years, has received more coverage than ever before. The Labour Party, in particular, have led the way having a campaign for mental health & appointing a Shadow Mental Health Minister in Luciana Berger. So how is it that mental health has become a priority of the left? The Mental Health Foundation estimate that 1 in 4 of us, in a given year, will experience some mental health problem. Chances are, that you or someone you know has been affected by mental health problems- a friend of mine has recently been diagnosed with extreme anxiety. This in itself shows the scale of the Mental Health crisis in Britain.
Despite how common mental illnesses are in today’s society, people who have suffered from such an illness have a tendency to hide mental health issues from wider society. A survey recently conducted by Scottish Power found that almost half of the public would not want other people to know that they have some form of mental illness. However, despite the likelihood that one of us, a family member, a friend or a work colleague will be diagnosed with a mental illness, it is still met with negative stigma. As charity ‘Time to Change’ point out, mental health “is still surrounded by prejudice, ignorance and fear” making it hard for people suffering to find common ground with the rest of society. Due to the stigma mental illnesses receive, people who are suffering may be reluctant to ask for help due to how they believe they will be viewed. This highlights the need for us, as a society, to change attitudes towards mental illness so that those suffering from mental health issues feel supported and not alienated. However, with funding cuts to the NHS, lack of education around mental health & the issue being widely ignored by government, we risk mental health being one of the biggest social issues facing Britain over the coming years.
The increasing coverage of mental health issues, over the past few years, has gone hand in hand with the changing nature of our society. Rising numbers of zero-hour contracts, redundancies and people in temporary work have done nothing to help people’s anxiety levels. People constantly agonise over whether they can afford the rising costs of living with uncertain working conditions that do not guarantee hours from week to week. This is an increasing issue for young people in Britain. Whether workers or students, young people are facing increasing pressure due to rising costs, government cut backs & uncertain working conditions such as, zero hour contracts & lower paid jobs. The changing nature of society has had a clear impact on young people’s mental health & wellbeing. 1 in 10 young people have already been diagnosed with a mental health problem. If we do not change how society views mental health, then this issue is only going to get worse.
We need to start acting today in order to create a better future for ourselves. We need to get mental health to be viewed in the same light as psychical health. We need to educate to reduce stigma. We need to start lobbying MPs to take action to stop funding cuts & start getting a serious support network in place so people know where to turn to when suffering from mental health issues. Labour Mental Health made great steps in bringing focus to this topic. As part of GMB Young Members, we have launched the Fair Deal for Young Workers which wants to promote better working conditions for young people whilst promoting better mental health support. In Yorkshire & North Derbyshire we have already got leading Labour MPs to support our campaign such as Jeremy Corbyn & Luciana Berger. However, there is so much more we can do as a movement. Get involved with the Labour Party Campaign for Mental Health & unions to give this issue more exposure & together we can move towards a brighter future where people are not afraid to speak about their mental health, are better supported & have better working condition that promotes well-being.