Luciana Berger: ‘We have a mental health crisis as the system only focuses on crisis’

Luciana Berger: ‘If you don’t support people with mental illnesses they are more likely to develop a physical illness too.’ Photograph: Martin Godwin for the Guardian

This Blog has issues with Luciana Berger. She was one of the many Labour MPs who walked away from the first vote on the Welfare Reform and Work Bill – basically just standing aside to let it happen – in July.

She has no real understanding of the problems facing working-class people – her only employment was for management consultancy Accenture, advising FTSE 100 companies including Barclays and BP, as well as the London Stock Exchange, before becoming MP for Liverpool Waverley in 2010 amid accusations that the then-neoliberal New Labour leadership had ‘parachuted’ her in as candidate.

That being said, her intentions as shadow minister for mental health seem good, and it is to be hoped that her strategy is right.

Your observations on this are invited.

The term crisis has been used so frequently about mental health services of late that it would be easy to brush off her use of it as a headline-grabbing exercise. However there’s no shortage of service users who would attest that, in light of ongoing cuts, beds shortages and evidence that welfare reforms are triggering or exacerbating people’s mental health problems on an unprecedented scale, this time it’s different.

A very significant development is the programme of welfare reforms introduced by Iain Duncan Smith, the secretary of state for work and pensions, says Berger. A recent report from the charity, Mind, found that the Work Programme and the rising threat of sanctions was making people’s mental distress much worse.

“The research shows that the processes the [Department for Work and Pensions ] has brought in are having a detrimental and negative impact on people’s mental health,” she says.

Berger brings up one constituent, Thomas O’Donnell, whose case she raised in parliament last year. Having waited eight months for his Personal Independence Payment to be processed, by the time O’Donnell reached out in desperation to Berger he was suicidal, she recalls. It is precisely this kind of interaction with voters, coupled with hard facts about pressures across a range of mental health services that are motivating her to take the government to task.

If it is mooted that there’s a limit to what a shadow minister can achieve, she counters that she has been grafting to lay bare where the coalition and current government have got it wrong.

Source: Luciana Berger: ‘We have a mental health crisis as the system only focuses on crisis’ | Society | The Guardian

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9 thoughts on “Luciana Berger: ‘We have a mental health crisis as the system only focuses on crisis’

  1. ian725

    Well she now ‘appears’ to be on the right track…. lets hope she is genuine and that this is not just a ruse to get her ‘noticed’ and advance her career.

  2. A-Brightfuture

    How many more “researches” does the system have to undertake until someone in authority takes the gloves off.
    All we hear is, “this research has found that…………” “A report has been written and has found that…………”

    And still it goes on. Five years this has been going on, and not a damn thing has changed, in fact it has got worse.
    I applaud MPs who make a stand in parliament and stake their findings, however they always get shouted down by some non entity who have the emotions and feelings of a lizard.

    1. love1salluneed

      In my mind, research, the need for, ongoing need to have a committee etc and all the other BS is a ploy to place this matter on the back-burner. Delaying tactics while a dreadful situation is simmering beneath the surface and quite likely to explode over everyone unless dealt with. I am afraid those damn bean counters are at it all the time
      leaving the cinderella of the NHS to become the absolute pauper of the NHS.

  3. AndyH

    Ultimately mental illness needs to be treated as an illness rather than a lifestyle choice. Having a Shadow Minister for Health is a step in the right direction. Yes, she sat on her hands during the vote in July, but if she is prepared to concede she made a mistake and is open to evidence from Doctors (rather than insurance companies) this is a blow for mental health.

  4. Ian

    Having dreadful technical problems trying to read the blog, specifically on a Windows Lumia device. Does WordPress have an handheld device optimisation, as the pages are currently unreadable, which is deeply frustrating as I enjoy your writing.

    1. Mike Sivier Post author

      Mobile optimisation – yes it does, but all the tests show that the site is viewable on mobile devices. It’s more than a little frustrating as I’m finding it hard to see what I can do, and I’ve been grappling with this for a while. Please bear with, I’ll get there in the end.

  5. mrmarcpc

    There’s been a mental health crisis for years, I suffer from it and belong to groups that inform and investigate fellow sufferers about what’s going on, or lack of it now since the government don’t regard mental health as important so help and funding for it has been further cut, there will be no support structure at all for anyone who is a longtime sufferer or someone new to it, will have to struggle on their own but then again, that’s what the tories want!

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