It has been encouraging to follow in Socialist Review the correspondence about how we, as Marxists, understand mental health and respond to the controversies around the relevance of Freudian, and other, ideas.
These have also been aired at the debates at the Marxism Festival where users of services and a range of practitioners have engaged with the theories but also reminded us of the immediate and urgent impact of austerity and growing inequalities on the mental well-being of both individuals and the wider society.
As a response to this crisis there are many user-led campaign groups. One example is the national body Disabled People Against Cuts (DPAC), currently fighting the attempt to place counsellors in Job Centres with the threat of claimants being sanctioned if unwilling to being conscripted as therapy clients. There are also those who become activists when their local services are threatened with closures.
Practitioners are finding support in groups such as the Critical Mental Health Nurses Network, Psychologists Against Austerity and the Alliance of Counsellors and Psychotherapists. There is also the Mental Health Charter (firstname.lastname@example.org). Initiated by the Social Work Action Network (SWAN), our campaigns and conferences have allowed us to work alongside the range of other individuals and groups described above.
In the charter we show our support for services at risk of closure but are also clear in that ultimately we don’t just want more of the same.
Our call is for services “shaped by users with democracy and participation at the centre. Interventions based on social approaches and that challenge discrimination. Support driven by social justice rather than the profit motive.”