The Young Communist League has issued a statement marking World Mental Health Day 2020.
On World Mental Health Day 2020, Britain’s young communists aren’t just calling for better and wider access mental health services for young people, especially in deprived working class and rural areas. We lay the blame for the spiralling mental health crisis squarely at the door of poverty, unemployment and capitalism in Britain.
Over the last few years we have seen a surge in mental health problems among young people. Suicide is the biggest cause of death in young people aged 20-34 in Britain. Women and LGBT youth are even more likely to suffer from mental health problems. Despite this, young people across Britain are forced to wait months for any treatment after they are referred. For too many the wait is too long.
The conditions that a young person grows up in determine their entire future. Half of all mental health problems in a person’s life begin during childhood and 75% before the age of 24.
Over 30% of children in Britain, 4.2 million, were living in poverty in 2018-2019. The number is expected to increase to 5.2 million by 2022. 70% of children in poverty come from working families; while 45% of children from ethnic minority families are in poverty, compared with 26% from white families. Child poverty has a deep and wide-ranging effect during early years and later in life including poor mental health and academic underachievement.
Capitalism has always utilised mental and physical disability to divide the labour force and drive down wage levels. There is also a direct correlation between mental health problems and unemployment and exploitative working conditions.
Unemployed under 25 year olds are more than twice as likely to suffer from mental health problems. Studies have shown that 1 in 5 of all suicides are the result of unemployment. As unemployment and precarious exploitative work continue to rapidly increase during the COVID-19 pandemic, we can only expect mental health problems to continue to skyrocket – unless there is a fight back.
Even in the field of culture, capitalism is damaging the mental health of the youth. Technology such as the internet and social media have tremendous potential for education and social inclusion but under private ownership they are used to manipulate consumer and political choices and to divert, trivialise and create dependencies at the cost of young people’s mental health.
The YCL demands a healthcare system that works for working class young people. Health and social care provision should be integrated on the basis of adequate funding and democratic control. The ever-growing number of people with mental health problems doesn’t only require greater resources for the NHS.
New approaches to psychiatry, diagnosis and treatment should take the material conditions of our society as their starting point and, wherever appropriate, rely less on medication and incarceration. Widespread drug abuse, crime and anti-social behaviour are – more than anything else – the results of capitalist society’s inability to provide all of life’s essentials, real opportunities and a fulfilling existence for young people.
We need to take real measures now and to support the millions of young people across Britain to realise their full potential. But we will only fully tackle mental ill health by replacing the system which relies on and creates poverty, exploitation and alienation – capitalism.
Young Communist League
10 October 2020