The blog has been getting quiet while all the students are taking time off and seeing family and friends for Christmas. That doesn’t mean everything has stopped however. Traditionally actually, this is the time the government use to make their worst announcements. This year, will be no exception. The VAT increase is due next month, which is when the cuts begin to hit absolutely everybody. The unions are on their feet and promising mass action across the country, now is the time to push our point home. Every headline needs to be how unfair the cuts are and every effort needs to be made to show we are not the apathetic generation they assumed us to be.
There is also an opportunity to make some valid points about the type of community we feel we should be part of. The Vale in Hunslet are currently facing closure. They offer a day care centre and activities for people with mental health conditions. I have visited this type of day care centre many times and can state with certainty that to the people who are affected by mental health conditions, they are vital to their standard of life continuing. People with mental health conditions such as schizophrenia find life in the normal world difficult to cope with and the stigmatisation they face, make reclusiveness seem like the only option. This is not only lonely but a spiral, as the loneliness gets worse, the feeling of not fitting in increases and this can lead to furthering problems and makes treatment even harder.
The stigmatisation these people face has a dangerous precedent and we do not have to look very far in LTSAC to find a psychology student, if you have not studied stigmatisation, ask one of them or if you are feeling literary and want a headache Michel Foucault has written some really insightful books on the subject or more contemporarily Thomas Szasz discusses the topic. The general gist however, is that we create a stigma surrounding people with mental health conditions because of our own selfish need to feel comfortable with the world in which we live. This is all very cosy but has a long standing history in the individualistic way of thinking. Because someone is different, they are not to be trusted, unpleasant, dangerous and even criminal. This attribution is nearly always wrong, usually unfair and more importantly self fulfilling if left unchecked. Imagine if you will, spending your entire life knowing you are different and being afraid of ever admitting it, then having everyone in society shift their purse into their chest as you approach them, move seats when you sit down on a bus to avoid you or talk about you while you are sitting well within earshot. How would you react to society, if that is what it offered?
Stereotyping and stigmatisation are an awful part of society, a part which should have shifted by now but unfortunately, education and familiarity are the best way to combat both and ignorant people fear and avoid things which scare them, which is just about everything. Don’t believe me? Look at the next EDL march, all huddled together in case someone actually asks them what they believe. They rely on safety in numbers and ignorance, never venturing out of their little world. There are people who are not only above this but actually spend their lives making sure there is a place for people who feel pushed out by society and illness. Ignoring, for now, the fact that these people while doing a difficult and all consuming job are paid far less than a banker, though clearly doing a more valuable job, are also being targeted by this disgusting government and being told that their service and their service users don’t matter.
As the cuts begin to hit everybody, it would be a massive shame to only focus on our own difficulties. The people at the Vale do an amazing job and give their service users a place to safely interact with other people, without judgement and without the usual pressures they feel in everyday society. The difference this service makes to these people is clear to see and we will be sending representatives to meet with the service users and some of the staff in the new-year. The people from the Vale need ours and everybody we can manages help. This service is essential for its service users and the government are condemning them to a lonely and emotionally torturous life with little or no outlet because the bankers can’t add up and rich people don’t want to pay tax. This is not acceptable. The fact that people who are unfortunate enough to suffer with a mental health condition, are judged to be worth less than someone who is rich and doesn’t want to contribute to society, is a very concise example of the values of this government. In short, people with money are good and people who don’t or can’t work are bad people who should suffer. Well, that is what they are causing now, the service users at the Vale have already been out in force and will continue to be involved in direct action in the new-year.
One of the demands and beliefs of the occupation and LTSAC are that the council should run a deficit budget in order to make the government pay for services which are vital, which they are saying we can no longer afford. In a time where we are about to lose 1500 police staff in West Yorkshire Police, 3000 council staff, hundreds of nurses and several other just as serious redundancies, some in our own institution, the councils should be made to act now. As Rozh a sorely missed comrade pointed out, this has been done before and the government have to pay their debts. We feel that for the people at the Vale this should be done and should be done with pride. Please get involved in this campaign, whatever is happening at Trinity, we will be arranging for people to make their way over to the Vale to protest and get involved. There will also be a Psychology Society fund raiser, which will benefit greatly from everybody’s involvement, psych soc or not.