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Psychologists unite against austerity

uel phramascience student

Austerity is bad for the nation’s mental health. That is the view of a group of British psychologists who have come together to add their professional voices to the debate about the government’s austerity policies.

Thirty psychologists launched their campaign at the House of Lords last week warning of the dangers of economic belt-tightening. In the coming weeks the group will also be outlining a vision for public services which would better promote good mental health through strengthening, rather than weakening, communities.

The move is timely with the merits of austerity certain to be challenged during the General Election campaign, and its effects being felt acutely in Greece, where there has been a political backlash.

One of the psychologists behind the campaign, Laura McGrath, a lecturer from the University of East London, explained the thinking behind it:

“Psychologists Against Austerity grew out of a pressing concern with the psychological costs of austerity, for both individuals and communities. Many in our group work as professional psychologists with the poorest in society, and see these effects first-hand. We feel it important in the run-up to the election that we speak out and don’t just watch silently from the side-lines.”

The group have also produced a briefing paper entitled ‘The Psychological Impact of Austerity’. In it they outline five ‘Austerity Ailments’, which have become more common since the coalition introduced its policy and are known to cause mental health problems. These are fear and distrust; humiliation and shame; instability and insecurity; isolation and loneliness; and a sense of feeling trapped.

The event was able to take place at the House of Lords, thanks to the patronage of Baroness (Ruth) Lister of Burtersett.  She said:

“As the evidence mounts of the psycho-social impact of austerity and poverty mounts, I welcome the launch of Psychologists Against Austerity and am pleased to be able to host it.  I hope it will lead to wider public understanding of just how damaging austerity is.”

Those who attended the launch event included representatives from Disabled People Against the Cuts and Black Triangle, as well as Labour MPs Luciana Berger and John McDonnell.

“This launch was just the starting point,” asserts Laura McGrath. “We are now concentrating on disseminating the briefing paper far and wide, to ensure that the psychological costs of austerity are heard. We will also be holding a 'Week of Action' for people working in Psychological services in April.”

Notes to Editors

The University of East London (UEL) is a global learning community with students from over 120 countries world-wide. Our vision is to achieve recognition, both nationally and internationally, as a successful and inclusive regional university proud of its diversity, committed to new modes of learning which focus on students and enhance their employability, and renowned for our contribution to social, cultural and economic development, especially through our research and scholarship. We have a strong track-record in widening participation and working with industry.