The government has announced that workers who are stressed out by the financial worries will receive free counselling on the NHS; I always thought that the NHS was free at the point of use anyway. What is behind this announcement is the fact that the government has recognised that it will have to boost mental health and increase the number of psychologists to provide a support network to help those who develop depression from the stress the recession is putting on individuals and families.
But is this the answer? The most common tool used by psychologists to combat depression is Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) commonly known as Talking Therapy. CBT works by getting the patient to recognise that the negative thoughts in their head are false by drawing positive evidence from the real world. CBT is a good method of solving the problems of isolated individuals who have in the past experienced events which changed their perception of the world to that of the negative. An example of this is a work colleague who walks past you in the corridor and says nothing. A person suffering from depression will perceive the situation in a negative way without any real evidence, and would think, ‘Why was I snubbed, what have I done to him, why is he not talking to me?’ It is these types of thoughts which fester away in your head and if not challenged, can trigger a depressive cycle.
If the stress is caused by real events, loss of your job, can I repay the mortgage, etc then this external stress can not be cured by the CBT method. The negative thoughts in your head are true. No matter how many times you challenge these thoughts, the fact is that you cannot make the reality of the recession vanish.
However research into mental health has indicated that low levels of mental health problems existed when it would have been expected to be the opposite. After the fall of the Berlin Wall comparisons were carried out to levels of depression in Eastern Europe. It was found that prior to the fall of the Wall Eastern Europe had lower levels of stress than after the introduction of capitalism. Another example was the civilian population of Britain in the Second World War. With all the bombs falling and loved ones away fighting it would be expected that, in these circumstances, levels of depression would be high – but the opposite was the case. It is the position of the individual in society that can determine the level of mental health not the circumstance. In the Second World War everybody was in the same circumstances, in Eastern Europe everybody lived under the same regime. It is when the individual is alone facing their demons that the effects are felt the most. This can be seen today with the difference in mental health of regular soldiers and TA soldiers returning from the battlefields in Afghanistan; the TA soldier back in civilian life is more likely to suffer the mental effects of war more that the regular soldier who stays within the comradeship of the barrack room.
Yes, talking can help. Talk to your work colleagues, talk to your neighbours and your family, get organised, unite and challenge the system that would just throw workers onto the scrapheap. Once working together to change the system you will soon find that the blues are blown away