From a position of hope

Last week David Clark, National Clinical Adviser on mental health at the Department of Health and a founder of the UK’s  largest national mental health service Increased Access to Psychological Therapy (IAPT), was aired on BBC Radio 4 responding to claims about the gaming of performance data in the service. Slick and without hesitation he defended the indefensible. 

After several weeks devoted to researching the corruption within IAPT and navigating the peaks and troughs of mainstream media during a prorogation and election, this felt like an actual body blow. A foetal-position-on-kitchen-lino-existential-crisis followed. 

Experienced activists are usually pretty sober about political heroics and the risks any of us take, but particularly feminists of a certain age reliant on earning a living, in expressing radical thought. Thinking, even in kinder times, has never been a risk free occupation but in the current climate my energy has started to get depleted by the loud multiple voices of privilege and Noa’s-Arkism that pile in to defend the status quo.

Debating the political in the media has become a perverse yes/no game underpinned by a profound nervousness around actual facts. The pressure to show a ‘balanced’ perspective levels every position to just another opinion. Whether what is said relates to anything factual no longer matters. Everything comes down to who says it rather than what is said. 

In this anti-fact environment, social media can ironically offer hope. Tucked in amongst the institutional PR and the attempts by politicians to come across as real people are threads of real thought. For a blinding break down of David Clark’s position by a bunch of therapists on twitter go here and a sobering realisation that the IAPT model is being exported to Canada here. If you’re interested in how class is played out in mental health services go to the @ScottosMaximos thread here. Despite the binary bun fight that we’re in this week, the everyday politics that most of us are engaged in continues and it’s here that hope exists.

The development of new networks like Partners for Counselling and P,sychotherapyCampfire Convention and Losing Control, activist groups like Other Ways to Care  and Mental Health Resistance Network although not given space in the BBC exist in a very real and solid way.  A regular glance at their social media is a reminder of what happens when people are hopeful and share a position.

A political woman asked me the other day why I didn’t put myself forward more – diligently doing all this work on mental health but using a slightly creepy semi-anonymous Surviving Work label combined with a well used mute button as a weapon of dis-engagement. Part of it is just I’m a tired single parent who no longer ventures onto social media after 5pm for fear of the terrors compounding chronic exhaustion and 8 months of constant sickness courtesy of the virus factory called nursery that my son has to go to so I can earn a not-even-covering-the-basics income from working full time. 

There, said it. It’s raw being me. 

It means that a sustained attack by some young radical fella who has more time on his hands than me can really suck the emotional wind. And that affects my son. And that’s not worth it to me. 

The other is that I’m too old to think that just because someone puts themselves in the frame that they somehow deserve it. It’s one of the reasons why I joined the labour party only when Corbyn became leader. Because there’s something very reluctant about his claims to leadership and for me that’s a good thing. I don’t support anyone who gives in to the political psychopathics that seems to be demanded of our leaders. 

As someone who has worked most of their life trying to prod people out of isolation and back into relating with each other I realise that there’s a bitter irony with the dilemma that the current political frame puts many of us in. 

In my lino-based-existential-crisis of 15 minutes (cut short by the need to do 1000 domestic chores to salvage my self-esteem and a basic level of personal hygiene) I decided that to stay politically and social engaged I have to place myself in the future. As soon as I’m defending the past, my son’s future gets squeezed out of the small but cosmic life that we live together. This means conserving my energy for whatever happens in the every-day fallout of the elections. To prepare for the realities of living in a divided country, and the levels of hate that we have allowed into our homes. And teaching him how to survive it. 

Our relationships are the basis of our conservation, including those friends who believe things differently from us. Recently a shamelessly spiritual friend risked my anarcho-syndicalist wrath and told me she was praying for me, and I offer you her mantra in case you find it helpful.

Be still, and know that you are good enough. 

Surviving Work will be back and hopeful in the New Year.


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