MHN ‘austerity’ special edition, 2 December 2013

MHN 'Austerity' edition cover Today, Unite/MHNA has published its December ‘13/January ’14 edition of the Mental Health Nursing journal. This journal is a special edition on the issue of austerity and mental health. Normally the journal is only accessible to Unite/MHNA members and journal subscribers, however we’re making this edition freely available to download. You can download it here.

Dave MundayProfessional officer Dave Munday introduced the journal talking about the current ‘hard times’:

There is a lot in life that fascinates me. As a public health nurse, I’ve always been interested in the wider determinants of health, and so with the global financial crash in 2008 the issue of austerity has bubbled to the front of this thinking. As part of this there is a real sense of how our government is killing us. I have often thought how politicians, international institutions and companies push their own preferred theories on how it has impacted on millions of people across the globe. 

We have the ‘advantage’ of ‘natural experiments’ to show us the different outcomes of national and international economic policies. The countries that have rejected austerity have seen quicker and stronger recoveries. Iceland went much more bust than most and yet actually saw an improvement in its public health statistics compared with Greece, where the rush to austerity has caused so much damage to its citizens. An increase of 52% in the new cases of HIV infection (between January and May 2011), while in 2009 15% more Greeks reported their health as ‘bad’ or ‘very bad’ compared with 2007, and suicide rates rose 20% more in 2009 than 2007. 

For our members working in mental health, it’s not just words on a page. Every day you deal with our fellow brothers and sisters who have to cope with the effects that austerity has on their lives. Whether it’s cuts to their benefits, cuts to their services, the loss of their homes or families broken apart. But worse, for those who have had their safety nets ripped away, we as a society will suffer long-lasting damage, but those individuals will wear those scars for a lifetime. What depresses most though is that our government has argued that this is the bitter medicine that we need to take to keep the patient living. However, this is just not true and the medicine they are forcing upon us is harming the 99%. We also know that as the government has tried to redirect blame away from financiers and their complicated financial instruments to public sector workers, your working conditions have been attacked.
However, I have no doubt that we will continue the fight to make our world a fairer and more just place. I have long wanted this journal to focus on the issue of austerity and mental health as part of this struggle, and am pleased to introduce this special edition. 

Speaking in 1968, Robert F. Kennedy said: ‘Too much and too long, we seem to have surrendered community excellence and community values in the mere accumulation of material things…Yet the gross national product does not allow for the health of our children, the quality of their education, or the joy of their play... It measures neither our wit nor our courage; neither our wisdom nor our learning; neither our compassion or our devotion to our country; it measures everything in short, except that which makes life worthwhile.’