Tuesday 20 January 2015

Benefit Cuts for People with Depression Who Refuse Treatment Are Barbaric and Misunderstand the Problem

According to the Express, the DWP is planning to cut benefits for people with depression or anxiety who refuse treatment.
A senior Government source said it was “bizarre” that a lot of ESA claimants with treatable mental health problems undergo no treatment whatsoever, according to the Sunday Telegraph.
“These are areas we need to explore. The taxpayer has committed a lot of money but the idea was never to sustain them for years and years on benefit. We think it’s time for a rethink,” the source said. 
“At some point something has to be done. Right now it’s an open ended contract.”
This is a seriously misguided policy, for several reasons:

1) It assumes that everybody with these conditions will respond positively to treatment. Having been under treatment of one kind or another for mental health problems for more than half my life, I can say with some authority that finding the right treatment is usually a combination of luck, experimentation and circumstance. Many people go through a range of anti-depressants, for instance, at a range of different doses, before they find the one that actually helps (and doesn't make things worse). If they find one that helps at all.

Many people aren't willing to go through the plethora of unpleasant side effects and repeated disappointment that are associated with trying yet another pill, and they shouldn't be punished for this.

Similarly with therapies; some are suitable for some conditions and some people, others are entirely inappropriate. 

2) This policy assumes that treatment is available for everybody. A whole lot of people who have tried to get 'talking therapy' treatments find they are unavailable, or they have a loooooooong waiting list that they won't ever reach the top of. 

3) We need to retain absolute autonomy over our bodies and our minds, and that includes having a choice over taking pills or letting professionals prod into our psyches. There are many, many good reasons that people may resist interventions, including having faced force or increased oppression in their previous experiences with mental health services. Forcing people into this system - especially if it has already let them or their loved ones down - will do far more harm than good.

4) No therapy or counselling will work if, for whatever reason, the client hates the idea. It just won't. 

This is a policy that is not only wrong-headed, it risks doing further harm to people who are already vulnerable. Cutting someone's financial lifeline because they can't bear to try yet another tablet or because they're scared to undergo counselling after their last counsellor was transphobic or tried to cure them of their gayness, or simply because they don't feel ready to face the issues that trouble them, is barbaric.