There's More To Mental Health Than Funding
“Mental health services have been decimated by a decade of underfunding!” screams the headline of every publication even vaguely regarded as left-wing. This is not news to many of us, who have experienced first-hand the state of mental health services in this country.
An aspect I believe we must note is that the focus is forever on money and on services. Mental health services are a reaction to wider issues, and the way in which they must be changed is not funding alone. A pro-austerity Neoliberal capitalist government can take money away just as easily as a Keynesian capitalist government can pump it in.
Many who find themselves in need of mental health services are there as a result of an ableist, cishet normative, patriarchal, racist, capitalist society. This should almost not be news, and yet, in this case, I find that too often it is. This is the topic which is left out of many conversations had by the centre-left on mental health. Such a society will not always be the direct cause of mental health issues, but it’s undoubtable that it exacerbates such conditions.
When society is creating the stresses of constant competition and financial insecurity, is it any wonder many end up in crisis?
When society is consistently ostracising and invalidating, how can we be surprised that the marginalised feel exactly that, marginalised?
The issue of underfunding is worth our time, but let it not be the only point of discussion. Underfunded services do frequently fail to manage the scope of the mental health crisis we face, they do push people towards privatised services that they cannot afford or which do not have their best interests in mind, and they often mean those with urgent issues may fail to be addressed entirely.
It is not a coincidence that mental health services are not the only services which have been gutted by austerity either, as mental health is a holistic issue. With communities often being fractured and community spaces being taken away are feelings of isolation, not a foreseeable consequence? Or on the topic of trans healthcare, for example, is it not inevitable that when assistance in transitioning is reduced, that mental health will struggle too?
We talk often of mental health awareness, almost as often as underfunding, but awareness means little when communities, families, and friends are also struggling, or unqualified to assist. ‘Mental Health Awareness’ is a hollow flag worn by the same corporations that contribute to the struggles people face, in a cruel display of capitalist irony. It does little in its present state to achieve resolution. Mental health awareness could be the gateway towards the easing of minor issues through solidarity and community, but this is not at present its intention. It merely grants platitudes “talk to a mate!” and moves the focus from failure by elites onto guilting individuals.
Mental health services do need reforms, this is a reality of their existence, they could be better coordinated, for example, in the area of transition from childhood services to adulthood services, they could have better training processes, perhaps they could try more experimental techniques. But reforming mental health services, better funding mental health services, and generally improving psychological research would not alone be enough. Especially when in a nation dominated by parliamentary power, such changes could just be undone five years later. The true solution requires examining the hostile society we inhabit, and it seems many aren’t quite ready for that discussion yet.