We’re in the middle of a week of action against austerity led by Psychologists Against Austerity (PAA), are a group of psychologists that campaign against the UK government’s cuts to welfare and charity funding. PAA members use their knowledge on the evidence of the impact of austerity (see this recent review of austerity’s impact) as well as – for PAA clinicians – their knowledge of those with mental health problems – to demonstrate the increasing harm austerity is having on the UK population.
In their report on their work and the impact of austerity they state for instance:
Austerity policies have damaging psychological costs. Mental health problems are being created in the present, and further problems are being stored for the future. We have identified five ‘Austerity Ailments’. These are specific ways in which austerity policies impact on mental health:
1. Humiliation and shame
2. Fear and distrust
3. Instability and insecurity
4. Isolation and loneliness
5. Being trapped and powerless
These experiences have been shown to increase mental health problems. Prolonged humiliation following a severe loss trebles the chance of being diagnosed with clinical depression. Job insecurity is as damaging for mental health as unemployment. Feeling trapped over the long term nearly trebles the chances of being diagnosed with anxiety and depression. Low levels of trust increase the chance of being diagnosed with depression by nearly 50 per cent.
Part of their campaign invites stories of ‘everyday austerity’:
We would like to hear your stories about how the cuts have affected you and your service. We want the wider public and politicians to understand the real life costs of public sector cuts. It can be hard to speak up alone, so we are collating everyone’s stories – together we have more power and a louder voice. We all have stories of frustration, fear and anger, so please use this as a way to tell the world about how the cuts have impacted on you and/or the people you work with. We are interested in stories from everyone who works in, uses, or needs Psychology services.
We may use these stories in other contexts, such as publication and media.
A lot of the contributions are from clinicians and service users, and whilst these accounts are important, PAA recognize austerity affects everyone.
There is also a need to showcase the disproportionate impact of austerity on those affected by other injustices such as the disabled, people of colour and women. As critical psychologists we may be particularly able to do this, so please contribute a story if you have one. Other ways to support PAA can be found here.