Category Archives: Mental

A polite letter to Therese Coffey [TRIGGER WARNING]

Phillip Herron.

[Yes, this article comes with a trigger warning as it discusses matters which some people may find extremely upsetting.]

Dear Ms Coffey,

Please take a good, long look at the image accompanying this. It is the last photograph of Phillip Herron, taken minutes before he took his own life.

Mr Herron died because your employees at the Department for Work and Pensions could not be bothered to take their fingers out of their collective posteriors long enough to pay him the Universal Credit he was owed. He would undoubtedly be alive now if they had.

No doubt the DWP officers concerned would say they did not need to pay Mr Herron as Universal Credit is paid in arrears and his five-week wait had not yet ended. They were “only following orders”, they will say, echoing the so-called Nuremberg Defence that did not protect any German soldiers who were prosecuted for ensuring the deaths of so many people during World War II.

You, together with previous Work and Pensions secretaries, and many other Conservative MPs past and present, justify the wait with the mantra that delaying payment for more than a month prepares claimants for the world of work, but we all know that is not true.

It attacks their mental health. It causes depression and despair, and ultimately can lead to suicidal thoughts. Mr Herron’s death is a matter of Conservative government policy.

When he died, he had just £4.61 in his bank account and debts of more than £20,000 that were escalating due to that five-week wait for Universal Credit.

£20,000 is not a substantial sum of money in this day and age. I know you have said it is in interviews, but just take a look at your own bank balance. You probably consider that to be small change; the kind of pocket money you might spend on a night out.

It is one-sixth of the pay rise you will receive next year, just for being a member of Parliament.

It could have been handled. There are ways to ensure debt can be paid off within a reasonable period of time, no matter what the debtor’s means. But Mr Herron could not see that because your system forced him to concentrate on the negative aspects of his situation.

He saw no way out because you denied it to him. So he took his own life. His blood is on your hands. I understand DWP jargon describes that as a “positive benefit outcome”.

Now his three young children must go through life without a father – because that is what you demanded.

Their upbringing is likely to be a much greater burden on public funds than paying his Universal Credit claim – because that is what you demanded.

And there are countless others in the same predicament right now – because that is what you demand.

Your system does not help anybody. It pressurises them; it brutalises them; it forces them to consider the unthinkable – because that is what you demand.

It does not matter whether you spoke the words. You ordered the death of this man.

Please make a copy of his photograph and put it on your wall. Then, every day, when you come into work, you can spend time looking at it – and try to find a way to justify the fact that you caused him to die.

You can find more information – and more than 18,000 comments from members of the public – in this Facebook post.

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Twitter unites to help British man struggling with his mental health. Why won’t the UK government?

 

A British man tweeted that his mental health was suffering – and people from across the world responded with uplifting words, images and video clips.

It’s not clear exactly why Edmund O’Leary – a follower of This Site – was moved to express his distress, but living in a country that is shambling from one crisis to another under a government that is worse-than-useless, that takes money from people who need it in order to hand it to the very rich (in return for nothing), that has caused the Brexit crisis and worsened the Covid-19 calamity, might have something to do with it.

How uplifting, then, to see an international range of people using the often-abrasive social media platform to help – incidentally providing all of us with a bit of cheer on a gloomy October weekend:

All the above (and more) being said, I have to agree with the following Twitter user, who makes the important point that, perhaps, we would not have to mount this ad hoc effort on Edmund’s behalf if the UK’s mental health care services had not been cut to the bone by successive political administrations who simply don’t care that they are driving people to despair:

Let’s all try to do a little more to make sure people like Edmund don’t have to go to Twitter for help – and that everybody in need of mental health care can get it. I know Edmund will read this and I hope he’s feeling better. Send us a message!

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If Tories don’t support abusers, why does Universal Credit push people to stay in abusive relationships?

Abuse: the Tories have ensured that people can’t escape if it means claiming Universal Credit. That way lie only debt, depression and mental breakdown.

Twisted Tory rules mean that people are financially encouraged to stay in abusive relationships rather than claim Universal Credit.

The Conservative government has deliberately weighted the conditions under which the so-called benefit is paid to make it more difficult for people to survive by claiming it than by living with an abuser – even if this means endangering their own lives.

People with disabilities are particularly at risk. But then, those of us who are familiar with the Tory record on disability have come to expect that.

Unite the Union has provided the story of Emma (not her real name), who lived a life of psychological abuse, control and marital rape until she was helped to divorce her husband and strike out on her own.

She did not think there would be any hardship as her husband, it seems, was a genuine skiver who refused to work, meaning she had been the main earner – despite being able to work only 24 hours per week, due to a serious autoimmune disease.

But the Tories made sure she would suffer.

Previously, as a working person, she had been receiving tax credits, and would have been better-off had she continued to do so.

But the Tories used her change of circumstances to force her onto Universal Credit, leaving her £350 per month worse-off.

There are several reasons for this:

The disabled worker allowance she used to receive under tax credits was stopped. This is because the allowance can only be accessed through a work capability assessment, which grants benefits to people unable to work, rather than for disabled people who can work.

The Citizens Advice Bureau has stated that this has resulted in a Catch 22 where “a worker must be assessed as not fit for work to receive targeted in-work support”.

Have you ever heard of anything as flat-out daft?

I bet if anyone tried to point it out, they’d have to fight an expensive court case before the Tories did anything about it, too.

Worse still, Emma ran into a problem that has now been challenged in court, with a ruling made against it:

Her wages are paid on the last Wednesday of every month rather than on the same date. This resulted in her claim being cancelled and her payments being stopped for three months. She was also ineligible to claim her entitlement back for the month in which the claim was ended.

This is a widely experienced problem for Universal Credit claimants whose regular wages are paid on different days each month and stems from an ill-considered policy stipulation that the benefit amount is calculated to a strictly defined time period.

Now Emma is among 85,000 people who should be able to claim compensation, after the Court of Appeal have ruled that it was “irrational” for the Department for Work and Pensions – and the Secretary of State in particular – to ignore the fact that computer systems would assume that claimant had received double the money expected and cancel their payments.

The Conservative government spent two years fighting this court case – indicating that, despite being well aware of the issue, Tories were determined to continue depriving some of the poorest workers in the UK of vital benefits – including victims of outrageous domestic abuse like Emma.

I asked in my previous article about the court case whether the Tories were sadists or perverts, commenting that “perverts” seemed closest to the mark as one of the judges had described the situation as “perverse”.

Considering Emma’s case, it seems they were sadists as well.

The court ruling came too late for her, by the way – forced into an ever-mounting debt crisis with not even an offer of support from the Department for Work and Pensions, the weight of a life suffering abuse came crashing over her and she suffered a nervous breakdown.

She is now diagnosed as suffering with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), anxiety and depression.

After 22 years as a healthcare professional in which she had always paid her bills, taxes and pension contributions, she now says she is “mortgaged up to the hilt… living off a credit card and have taken out two personal loans”.

So Universal Credit has put Emma exactly where the Tories want her – deeply in debt and forced to work like a beast of burden in the forlorn hope of clearing that debt again.

Consider the fact that 85,000 people are likely to have been put in the same situation by the ‘pay date’ scandal alone – never mind those who lost the disabled worker allowance, and it seems clear that the Tories are trying to create a “zombie economy” – with working people forced to wear themselves out trying to pay off an impossibly-high debt while their creditors sit back and count their profits.

It seems a limited amount of help is available for people who have suffered domestic abuse – but anyone seeking it must provide “written evidence” (of what kind?) within one month of discussing it with a work coach.

Emma is clear about the end result:

“Had I known that I would lose my tax credits and be transferred to Universal Credit before I separated from my ex-husband, I most definitely would have remained in the marriage and that is a worrying thought.

“Universal Credit, I believe, traps people in unhealthy relationships and causes more difficulties to individuals who are already in a vulnerable and distressing situation.”

So much for Iain Duncan Smith’s brainchild.

The only way for vulnerable people like Emma to avoid its debt trap is to go back into domestic degradation and abuse.

And the only conclusion we can draw is that Conservative politicians have designed the system to achieve this.

So it would be fair to say the Conservative government – and every MP who is a member of it – in league with the worst kind of physical, psychological and sexual abusers.

If they try to deny it, let them explain why they designed Universal Credit that way – and why they fight court cases to keep it that way.

Source: Domestic abuse survivor speaks out about Universal Credit nightmare

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Benefit sanctions achieve little more than increasing anxiety and depression – LSE

Benefit sanctions lead to increases in claimants’ anxiety and depression, and a re-assessment of the role of sanctions is needed as the UK slowly emerges from lockdown – according to the London School of Economics.

According to a recent assessment, current sanctions policy can be considered to be ‘cruel, inhuman and degrading’. Importantly, there are straightforward steps that can be implemented to minimise the harms associated with sanctions and to help realise the basic right to a social minimum.

The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) should … assess the impacts of sanctions on health and well-being. Mental health and labour market outcomes are likely to be interrelated; the adverse mental health impacts of sanctions could plausibly affect people’s ability to search for and attain paid work.

There is a need to reduce the length of sanctions and/or the proportion of benefit that is withdrawn… Sanctions are consecutive within Universal Credit, which means that some will be affected by penalties that last longer than the new apparent maximum of 26 weeks.

The hardship payments system is insufficient and also needs to be reformed… Adverse mental health impacts … are observed even though the rate of hardship payments [has] increased. Hardship payments within Universal Credit are awarded for a restricted set of reasons and are repayable, leading to even fewer claimants receiving them than in the past.

The application of sanctions should be limited to a last resort. Initially, Universal Credit operated with a very high rate of sanctions, though this has since been reduced. The low rate could be maintained by implementing a warning system; limiting the number of reasons for which sanctions apply; and establishing clear rules for what constitutes a ‘good reason’ for non-compliance.

Source: The impact of DWP benefit sanctions on anxiety and depression | British Politics and Policy at LSE

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‘Our plan is working’ says Hancock as thousands of NHS doctors plan to quit

At breaking point: the UK’s National Health Service.

Almost one in seven NHS doctors are planning to quit the service or retire when the current wave of Covid-19 is seen to have subsided, leaving a huge gap in care when the second wave rises.

Many more are planning to cut back the hours they work – and almost one-third are saying the four months of constant struggle to contain the virus has left them with mental health problems.

Meanwhile, the result of Brexit is that the UK will not be able to import medical help from abroad.

“Our plan is working,” said Health Secretary Matt Hancock.

That can only be true if the plan is to ensure that many more English people die – probably over the coming winter. Will he try to hide the facts by claiming it’s the flu?

The NHS faces a possible exodus of doctors before the second wave of coronavirus arrives, a leader of the British Medical Association has warned – with Brexit making it harder to replace them.

A new survey of doctors found almost one in seven is planning to quit the NHS or retire when the current crisis subsides, with many more saying they aim to cut back on hours, and almost a third complaining of mental health problems related to four months of relentless struggle against Covid-19.

Speaking to The Independent, the BMA council chair Chaand Nagpaul said that a second coronavirus wave in the winter months could overwhelm the NHS with a “double whammy” of potential staff shortages combined with regular winter pressures and the massive backlog of work postponed during the pandemic.

Source: Coronavirus: NHS facing shortage of doctors before second wave arrives as thousands set to quit, warns medics union | The Independent

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Universal Credit causes mental illness – but won’t get you a new job, study finds

A study of Universal Credit has found that it increases mental illness in claimants while failing to get them into new employment.

The finding should cause huge concern among the two million people who are said to have signed up for the benefit after the Conservative government imposed its coronavirus-prompted lockdown, forcing them to sign onto the benefit when their incomes disappeared.

The study of able-bodied people (those with disabilities have already been shown to suffer adverse effects due to changes in their benefits) found a 6.57 per cent increase in psychological distress.

This led the study’s authors to estimate that an extra 63,674 people suffered psychological distress between 2013 and 2018, as a result of being put on Universal Credit.

They estimated that 21,760 might reach the diagnostic threshold for depression.

They believe that, although the effect sizes identified are moderate, the potential for psychological impact is substantial owing to the widespread national policy implementation.

Levels of distress remained constant for people who were not put on the new benefit.

The study revealed that there was no increase in the transition into employment amongst those on Universal Credit, compared with those who were not – despite this being the key rationale given for its introduction.

The Tory government has commissioned its own evaluation of Universal Credit – but this will focus on labour market outcomes and not assess the effect on health and wellbeing.

Won’t it be interesting to see whether this study finds an improvement in employment?

Source: Universal Credit mental health problems, but not employment

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Coronavirus doubles deaths in mental health hospitals. How did it get in?

The number of deaths in mental health hospitals has doubled since the same time last year because of the coronavirus. Why?

These are supposed to be very secure facilities.

The number of people visiting them should have fallen because of the lockdown.

And medical professionals should have had the equipment – and the knowledge – to prevent the virus from penetrating as far as the patients.

But out of 106 deaths between March 1 and May 1, 54 were from confirmed or suspected Covid-19 infections.

In the same period last year, 51 people died. So deaths have more than doubled and all but one of the excess deaths were due to the pandemic.

And if you think the problem is limited to mental health hospitals, ask yourself: why is NHS England refusing to admit the number of people with learning disabilities who have died?

The Care Quality Commission has reminded mental health hospital providers that they have a duty of care to vulnerable patients.

It has highlighted its fears over the spread of the virus in secure hospitals and units, and to patients who are under Mental Health Act restrictions in the community.

The CQC will review its information on the deaths to determine what may be driving the deaths and whether other action should be taken.

There are serious human rights questions to be answered:

Deborah Coles, from the charity Inquest, told The Independent: “The refusal to publish the data points to the historical longstanding failure to provide detailed information about deaths of people in the care of the state in mental health and learning disability settings.

“People in closed institutions are completely reliant on others for their care and treatment. At a time of no external scrutiny, because the CQC is not inspecting units and family visits are restricted, there is the ever-present risk of abuse and ill treatment. These organisations have clear human rights obligations and it is unacceptable that there is just no transparency about what is happening.”

She added: “The other key issue is the indirect impact of Covid-19 on therapeutic services, use of restraint, medication and seclusion and self-inflicted deaths. They need to publish more comprehensive data than numbers disaggregated by gender, race, age, provider. Such a dramatic increase in deaths is deeply concerning and we need to understand the context. Data is meaningless without analysis.”

This Writer wants to know if our health providers have a guilty conscience.

Have they deliberately overlooked their duties to ensure that people with mental illnesses and learning disabilities enjoy a decent standard of health?

Let’s be honest with ourselves – if people in authority are trying to hide something, it’s usually because they know they’re responsible.

Lastly: nobody in such a position knowingly fails in their duty of their own accord. Were they acting (or rather, not acting) on orders from the Tory government?

Source: Coronavirus: Deaths in mental health hospitals double as Covid-19 spreads | The Independent

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What we voted for: Conservative rule is harming your children’s health

Tories harm children: that’s the meaning of the report.

If you know anybody at work or on your street who voted Tory, ask them why they hate kids and want to hurt them.

A report by the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health has stated that health outcomes for UK children from disadvantaged backgrounds are now up to four times worse than for the children of the super-rich.

That’s a direct result of Conservative government policies over the last 10 years.

The report states that, in a development “rarely seen in high-income countries”, “progress has stalled, or is in reverse”. That’s right – Tory government is reversing health improvements for children that have been made over recent decades.

Deep cuts in local authority budgets that fund public health initiatives and community services means progress has been seriously affected.

There has been a shocking rise in children’s mental illness and an increased number of child suicides.

A Tory government means children killing themselves. Think about that.

Poverty has been included as a health indicator.

And infant mortality has worsened.

Put all these elements together and we see that the UK has fallen behind comparably wealth countries – and all the jingoism in the world won’t change the fact.

Anybody who still says this is the best country in the world is talking through their posterior.

You can read the full report here. I’m sure you’ll be able to find even more upsetting statistics in it.

And I’m sure we’re all looking forward to the moment the first damned fool tries to ignore the findings on the basis that the RCPCH are a bunch of lefties.

Source: A ‘major wake up call’ reveals the impact of Tory rule on our children | The Canary

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Deaths mount as people buckle under the strain of false accusation

Pauline Hammerton: She was falsely accused of anti-Semitism and expelled from the Labour Party, and it seems the strain led to her untimely death.

The stories that follow are not tragedies. They are the results of small-minded persecution by petty creeps who want a few cheap kicks. Remember that.

As I write this, it is still only a day since This Site published its article on the 25 Labour Party members who were expelled in a single day.

Within hours, I received this, via Twitter:

https://twitter.com/moodynews101/status/1228592972419215361

It’s true.

Pauline Hammerton, a long-term Labour activist from Hulme, in Manchester, had been expelled on February 4 under one of the fast-track processes I described in my article.

It seems she had been unaware that the party had been planning to expel her, and was left distraught by the decision.

It is believed that the shock triggered a haemorrhage that killed her.

Those who knew Ms Hammerton (I did not) have described her in glowing terms.

Here‘s The Critique Archives: “I had met Pauline a few times at demos and other meetings, and so, although I did not know her well, her death has come as a shock, to me personally, and to other activists across the north-west. Her dedication to justice was tremendous, and the callous mistreatment she received from a party that she had given so much to must have been the bitterest blow imaginable.”

And this is from Tony Greenstein’s blog: “A cursory look at Pauline Hammerton’s Facebook page shows that she was anything but a racist.  She was a decent, kind, concerned person who hated all kinds of oppression. Pauline was Chair of Manchester Socialist Health Association… Pauline was the kind of person who should be welcomed and respected.”

Mr Greenstein has also been expelled from the Labour Party on trumped-up charges of anti-Semitism, as has This Writer.

I can’t speak for him, but I have had more than a quarter of a century’s experience as a reporter, and know the kind of backstabbing that can take place.

But not everybody is made of such stern stuff. False allegations alone can cause a huge amount of stress, especially on people whose health is not the best – and tangible harm as a result of such lies, like expulsion from a political party to which one has devoted a large amount of one’s life, can end a life. That is what we have seen.

But we cannot expect the Labour Party to own up and apologise. Nor can we expect any of Ms Hammerton’s false accusers to take anything like the honourable course of action.

They’ll be covering their tracks. If you don’t believe me, consider The Sun and the way that publication rushed to delete a story attacking the late TV presenter Caroline Flack after her apparent suicide (again on February 15).

Ms Flack had been under huge pressure after being removed as the host of a piece of ITV fluff called Love Island amid allegations that she had assaulted her boyfriend.

She had been due to go on trial in March. She had called the period after her arrest and departure from the TV show “the worst time of my life” and had since admitted that she was still having a “really rough time”.

But that didn’t stop content providers like The Sun from hounding her. The headline on the deleted story was “Brutal Caroline Flack Valentine’s Day card mocks troubled star with ‘I’ll f*** lamp you’ message”.

I don’t personally know what happened between Ms Flack and her significant other and I’m not the kind of person to rush to judgement, but I’m sure many people seeing that headline would have believed that it depicted her as a woman of extreme violence and that this was the impression it was seeking to give.

Put yourself in the position of a woman at the sharp end of messages like that – and who had been subjected to a constant stream of them for many months.

It is easy to understand how she could snap.

https://twitter.com/ScouseGirlMedia/status/1228787351452823552

And now at least one candidate to be leader of the Labour Party (remember Labour?) is threatening to open up a new set of floodgates for false accusations, by supporting a call to expel members who express transphobic views.

And just who would decide whether these views were transphobic or not? The same kind of people who decided that simply being accused of anti-Semitism meant members had to be guilty of it?

Labour has a piss-poor record on disciplinary matters and this will make it much, much worse.

Yes, I know that there is a huge argument raging between the so-called TERFs (Trans-Exclusionary Radical Feminists) and people who, as I understand it, are demanding a widening of the definition of transsexual people.

Neither side seems to have much to recommend it. I fell foul of some particularly odious people who claimed to be representative of the trans community on (again) February 15; they seemed to be just as bigoted and intolerant as those they claimed to be defending against.

And Rebecca Long-Bailey is taking their side.

Wouldn’t it be better to tell both gangs to pipe down, and follow a policy that ensures the maximum protection for everyone?

Beastrabban has written an extremely informative piece on this matter, which is not simple and it is vulnerable to takeover by agents of malice and hate.

Coming back to the fact that people are dying over false anti-Semitism allegations, I can say that I wish to raise this when my own case against the Labour Party comes to court on May 26.

It’s a long time to wait, because justice is a slow process, and I’m sure that Labour will try to obstruct my case as much as possible (those who were at the hearing earlier this month will know what I mean).

But it’s the best I can offer. What will you do?

Have YOU donated to my crowdfunding appeal, raising funds to fight false libel claims by TV celebrities who should know better? These court cases cost a lot of money so every penny will help ensure that wealth doesn’t beat justice.

https://www.crowdjustice.com/case/mike-sivier-libel-fight/


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NHS medical records handed to O2 to predict mental breakdowns – isn’t this against the law?

How many NHS record files have been handed over to a private firm by the Tories, in breach of Data Protection laws and the General Data Protection Regulations?

This looks like a huge data protection breach.

The Tory government, which runs the NHS in England, should have sought permission from patients before handing over their records to a commercial organisation – anonymised or not.

The fact that this information only became public knowledge via a Freedom of Information request makes it even worse because the Tories have been hiding what they have done.

Are you a patient of Birmingham and Solihull Mental Health NHS Foundation Trust?

If so, I strongly suggest that you get together with other patients, find out if your information was handed over, and take legal action. Get in touch with Citizens Advice to find out how.

The telecoms giant O2 has been given access to a cache of NHS medical records to develop an algorithm aimed at predicting when mental health crises might occur.

Patients’ consent was not sought before Telefonica, the Spanish group that trades as O2 in the UK, was given free access to the trove of records from Birmingham and Solihull Mental Health NHS Foundation Trust, according to documents, published last month under freedom of information laws.

The data includes five years’ of anonymised records belonging to current and former patients. In the document, the NHS trust said that “25,000 people experience a mental health crisis every year” in Birmingham and Solihull, suggesting that data on tens of thousands of patients could have been shared.

Source: NHS medical records given to telecoms group to predict mental breakdowns | News | The Sunday Times

Have YOU donated to my crowdfunding appeal, raising funds to fight false libel claims by TV celebrities who should know better? These court cases cost a lot of money so every penny will help ensure that wealth doesn’t beat justice.

https://www.crowdjustice.com/case/mike-sivier-libel-fight/


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Buy Vox Political books so we can continue
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The Livingstone Presumption is now available
in either print or eBook format here:

HWG PrintHWG eBook

Health Warning: Government! is now available
in either print or eBook format here:

HWG PrintHWG eBook

The first collection, Strong Words and Hard Times,
is still available in either print or eBook format here:

SWAHTprint SWAHTeBook

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