By Matt Tomlin
Often, social media is the reason we hear for the rise in mental health issues – used by journalists, politicians or anyone else wanting to find a quick and easy way to explain the rise in recent years. I am not about to deny the fact that technology and the social habits the online world have brought to us (in the last decade in particular) have had an impact on mental health issues. The way in which we have become constantly connected, and addicted to, each other’s everyday lives in the format of a fast-changing and superficial news feed is certainly playing with our heads. It easily exacerbates toxic pre-existing insecurities about ourselves and our social lives which we may have and these are difficult to escape from with social media networks like Facebook, Snapchat and Instagram being addictive and ingrained into our schedules, work lives and of course, every way of contacting each other.
However, a lot of the time social media gets the full blame, or at least the most immediate blame, for the emergence of the ‘mental health crisis’ in recent years, when there are actually more political reasons contributing to the issue as well. We know that for the last nine years, the UK has been following an austerity policy which involves government cuts to its spending on public services and such. Often police officers, with seriously cutback staff numbers and resources, are having to deal with calls regarding mental health issues because other services which had previously been sufficiently funded for dealing with such people have faced austerity cuts. Late last year the police force in South Wales was reporting of significant numbers of phone calls being made to them about mental health issues, that which they as a service are not equipped, qualified or supposed to deal with. How can the UK expect mental health issues not to worsen when the help on offer is not adequate? Social workers have also faced serious cutbacks meaning they are less equipped, as a workforce, when assigned specifically to helping those who are more likely to be mentally ill. It would seem the days of ‘care in the community,’ something brought in to replace the harsh and unnecessary asylum system in dealing with mental health issues, have been left behind.
It would have been years for many since they last heard those words used. Some people reading this article will probably have never heard of ‘care in the community.’ Perhaps we as a society have been kidding ourselves that by getting rid of asylums, we are now by default a much better and kinder society. The way our politicians continue following policies which cut back on mental health services, and subsequently their application in solving people’s mental health problems, would suggest otherwise. As would the British public’s tendency to vote for such an attitude. Those fighting to improve our mental health have been locked into a financially constrained formula of dealing with a complex issue. A ‘mental health crisis’ in the British population is not just down to simply social media. It is caused and prolonged by the attitude from the top-down that help and care are not things which are easily available to us, and that this negative should be accepted as a normal attitude in our lives and our dealings with mental health issues. How long will it take us to overturn and change this system which is keeping us down in the dumps?