Wednesday, 15 August 2012

Double dip depression

Amidst all the good news about the Olympics, and the national feel good bounce it has generated, you may have missed this story: Britain is getting more depressed.

According to figures from the NHS antidepressant prescriptions rose by 9.1% between 2010 and 2011, costing over £270 million. That’s 46.7 million prescriptions – more than enough for each adult in the country.

A breakdown of the figures show that there is a clear North/South divide with a cluster of cities in the North East all registering the highest rates of anti-depressants, and Blackpool taking the prize for the unhappiest place in the UK.

I am not surprised by this. There is a clear North/South divide in terms of the impact of the recession, with areas traditionally more reliant on manufacturing industry and the public sector for employment have been hardest by the cuts. Unemployment and insecurity wrecks lives. The news that 1,000 people have committed suicide because of the impact of the recession is terrible, but will not come as a great shock to mental health professionals.

However this increase in mental health illness reflects something much deeper about our society than the impact of recession.

Psychologist Oliver James has demonstrated that rates of mental illness are double in those countries most enthralled with the neo-liberal model and its accompanying materialism, greed-is-good philosophy and cultural vacuousness. As James states: ‘Not only would reduced consumerism and greater equality make us more ecologically sustainable, it would halve the prevalence of mental illness within a generation’.

Makes sense to me.