mental illness

Capitalism and the social source of mental distress

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sun, 15/07/2018 - 3:29pm in

Iain Ferguson’s new book is a useful examination of the current worldwide mental health crisis, and a detailed history of the understanding of mental distress from Freud, to the anti-psychiatry movement of the 1960s and 1970s, to the psychiatrists’ handbook the DSM-5.

Ferguson writes, “simply stated, the central thesis of this book is that the economic and political system under which we live—capitalism—which is responsible for the enormously high levels of mental health problems we see in the world today. The corollary of this argument is that in a different kind of society, a society not based on exploitation of oppression, but on equality and democratic control—a socialist society—levels of mental distress would be far lower”.

Ferguson argues more specifically that neo-liberalism has dramatically increased levels of mental distress. This is the product of opening up all aspects of society to the market, from never ending tests for school children, to privatised aged care, creating a more atomized and individualized society.

He writes, “anxiety, which was barely recognized as a mental health condition 50 years ago, is perhaps the condition par excellence of neo-liberal capitalism”.

He argues for a historical approach to understanding mental distress, both in terms of how different societies recognise what constitutes mental distress, and for understanding why particular individuals become unwell.

Rejecting the idea that forms of mental distress are biologically programed or inevitable, he argues that they are a product of experiences and social interactions. These do not occur in a vacuum, he points out, but, “are structured by the dominant oppressions within society”.

Anxiety disorders, for example, occur more frequently amongst women than men, and poverty increases the risk of many mental health problems.

Mainstream psychiatry

Ferguson is rightly critical of the biomedical model of mental distress which has become dominant among medical psychiatrists today.

He asks, “Why then given this weak evidence for the biological causes of mental health issues and the effectiveness of drug treatments on the one hand and strong evidence for social factors on the other do drug interventions continue to be the main way in which society responds to mental distress?”

A large part of the answer is that it is driven by the profits of the pharmaceutical companies, who have an interest in promoting the sales of drug treatments.

But as he also stresses elsewhere, another part of the answer is the individualisation and depoliticisation of what are social problems. If psychiatry as a whole were to accept that mental distress had social causes, it would be driven to do something about it. Instead it accepts and ends up reinforcing neo-liberal capitalist ideology, and an individualist view of the roots of mental distress.

Ferguson is also rightly critical of the new field of “Mad studies” that often argues that difficulties experienced by mental health users lie primarily in psychiatry, rather than neo-liberal capitalism.

Ferguson argues that a majority of people experiencing mental distress never encounter a psychiatrist, so it is difficult to argue that their problems stem from “psychiatric oppression”. It is true that most mental distress has its roots in the material circumstances of neo-liberal capitalism (and the clash of these with what the system tells us to think). However psychiatry can play a role reinforcing the atomisation of neo-liberal capitalism.

What people with mental health problems do encounter are the ideas that mental distress is an individual problem—whether they see a psychiatrist or not—since these ideas dominate our society.

These ideas are reinforced by much of the psychiatric profession, and particularly captured in “the psychiatrists’ bible” the DSM-5. And the lack of services, or shame that prevents people from seeing a psychiatrist, are reinforced by the idea that mental distress is an individual problem.

Another feature of the neo-liberal era has been the weakening of trade unionism and collective resistance. Early in the book Ferguson quotes journalist Tim Adam’s comments on a conference on workplace stress:

“It was tempting to think that the frontline of labor disputes had shifted from picket lines to worry lines and that collective grievances had become individual psychological battles; in the 1980s an average of 7,213,000 working days were lost to strikes, that number fell to between 647,000 between 2010 and 2015. Meanwhile the days lost to stress-related illness went exponentially in the other direction”.

Ferguson argues to fight to defend the services we currently have, while simultaneously demanding the less medicalised services, and greater acknowledgment of the social causes of mental distress, which users have been demanding for decades.

Ultimately he argues for struggle for a different sort of society, and that the struggle itself shifting back from “worry lines to picket lines” can play a role in making us well.

By Chris Breen

Politics of the mind: Marxism and mental distress
By Iain Ferguson, Bookmarks, $20

The post Capitalism and the social source of mental distress appeared first on Solidarity Online.

SYNDICATED COLUMN: Suicide? No. Society Is Murdering Us. But There Is a Way Out.

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 15/06/2018 - 3:50am in

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They say that 10 million Americans seriously consider committing suicide every year. In 1984, when I was 20, I was one of them.

Most people who kill themselves feel hopeless. They are miserable and distraught and can’t imagine how or if their lives will ever improve. That’s how I felt. Within a few months I got expelled from college, dumped by a girlfriend I foolishly believed I would marry, fired from my job and evicted from my apartment. I was homeless, bereft, broke. I didn’t have enough money for more than a day of cheap food. And I had no prospects.

I tried in vain to summon up the guts to jump off the roof of my dorm. I went down to the subway but couldn’t make myself jump in front of a train. I wanted to. But I couldn’t.

Obviously things got better. I’m writing this.

Things got better because my luck changed. But — why did it have to? Isn’t there something wrong with a society in which life or death turns on luck?

I wish I could tell my 20-year-old self that suicide isn’t necessary, that there is another way, that there will be plenty of time to be dead in the end. I’ve seen those other ways when I’ve traveled overseas.

In Thailand and Central Asia and the Caribbean and all over the world you will find Americans whose American lives ran hard against the shoals of bankruptcy, lost love, addiction or social shame. Rather than off themselves, they gathered their last dollars and headed to the airport and went somewhere else to start over. They showed up at some dusty ex-pat bar in the middle of nowhere with few skills other than speaking English and asked if they could crash in the back room in between washing dishes. Eventually they scraped together enough money to conduct tours for Western tourists, maybe working as a divemaster or taking rich vacationers deep-sea fishing. They weren’t rich themselves; they were OK and that was more than enough.

You really can start over. But maybe not in this uptight, stuck-up, class-stratified country.

I remembered that in 2015 when I suffered another setback. Unbeknownst to me, the Los Angeles Times — where I had worked as a cartoonist since 2009 – had gotten itself into a corrupt business deal with the LAPD, which I routinely criticized in my cartoons. A piece-of-work police chief leveraged his department’s financial influence on the newspaper by demanding that the idiot ingénue publisher, his political ally, fire me as a favor. But mere firing wasn’t enough for these two goons. They published not one, but two articles, lying about me in an outrageous attempt to destroy my journalistic credibility. I’m suing but the court system is slower than molasses in the pre-climate change Arctic.

Suicide crossed my mind many times during those dark weeks and months. Although I had done nothing wrong the Times’ smears made me feel ashamed. I was angry: at the Times editors who should have quit rather than carry out such shameful orders, at the media outlets who refused to cover my story, at the friends and colleagues who didn’t support me. Though many people stood by me, I felt alone. I couldn’t imagine salvaging my reputation — as a journalist, your reputation for truthtelling and integrity are your most valuable asset and essential to do your job and to get new ones.

As my LA Times nightmare unfolded, however, I remembered the Texas-born bartender who had reinvented himself in Belize after his wife left him and a family court judge ordered him to pay 90% of his salary in alimony. I thought about the divemaster in Cozumel running away from legal trouble back in the States that he refused to describe. If my career were to crumble away, I could split.

You can opt out of BS without having to opt out of life.

Up 30% since 1999, suicide has become an accelerating national epidemic — 1.4 million Americans tried to kill themselves in a single year, 2015 — but the only times the media focuses on suicide is when it claims the lives of celebrities like Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain. While the media has made inroads by trying to cover high-profile suicides discreetly so as to minimize suicidal ideation and inspiring others to follow their example, it’s frustrating that no one seems to want to identify societal and political factors so that this trend might be reversed.

Experts believe that roughly half of men who commit suicide suffer from undiagnosed mental illness such as a severe personality disorder or clinical depression. Men commit suicide in substantially higher numbers than women. The healthcare insurance business isn’t much help. One in five Americans is mentally ill but 60% get no treatment at all.

Then there’s stress. Journalistic outlets and politicians don’t target the issue of stress in any meaningful way other than to foolishly, insipidly advise people to avoid it. If you subject millions of people to inordinate stress, some of them, the fragile ones, will take their own lives. We should be working to create a society that minimizes rather than increases stress.

It doesn’t require a lot of heavy lifting to come up with major sources of stress in American society. People are working longer hours but earning lower pay. Even people with jobs are terrified of getting laid off without a second’s notice. The American healthcare system, designed to fatten for-profit healthcare corporations, is a sick joke. When you lose your job or get sick, that shouldn’t be your problem alone. We’re social creatures. We must help each other personally, locally and through strong safety-net social programs.

Loneliness and isolation are likely leading causes of suicide; technology is alienating us from one another even from those who live in our own homes. This is a national emergency. We have to discuss it, then act.

Life in the United States has become vicious and brutal, too much to take even for this nation founded upon the individualistic principles of rugged libertarian pioneers. Children are pressured to exhibit fake joy and success on social media. Young adults are burdened with gigantic student loans they strongly suspect they will never be able to repay. The middle-aged are divorced, outsourced, downsized and repeatedly told they are no longer relevant. And the elderly are thrown away or warehoused, discarded and forgotten by the children they raised.

We don’t have to live this way. It’s a choice. Like the American ex-pats I run into overseas, American society can opt out of crazy-making capitalism without having to opt out.

In the ‘I’ Today: Columnist Deborah Orr Catches Up with Mike’s Posts about DUP and Decline of Democracy in Ulster

Mike over at Vox Political has several times commented on stories in the mainstream media, which suspiciously repeat some of the points he’s made in his articles. Now it’s the turn of the I’s columnist, Deborah Orr, to catch up with some of the points Mike’s been making about the grossly disproportionate influence the DUP now has, thanks to the Tories’ dependence on them for support in the Commons. And the way this has meant that effective devolved government won’t be coming back to Ulster any time soon.

The power sharing agreement between Sinn Fein and the DUP collapsed last year, and since then Ulster’s been governed from Westminster. After Eire voted by a two-thirds majority to legalise abortion, feminists – not necessarily female – have been calling for a similar referendum in the Six Counties, where abortion is also illegal. But the DUP and Arlene Foster are very firmly against abortion, and don’t want to give the people of Ulster the choice of whether it should be legal or not. And because May needs their support, she really isn’t going to risk alienating them by giving them the referendum many are calling for. Nor is she going to risk losing them by handing power back to Stormont. And so, thanks to Foster and her far right hordes, Ulsterwomen don’t get to vote on what can be a matter of life and death – not just for unborn children, but also for the mothers – and Ulster’s people are denied their right to self-government.

Mike made these points in his posts a few days ago. See for example, this article by Mike yester, which actually comments on a story in the Mirror:
https://voxpoliticalonline.com/2018/05/30/vox-political-proved-correct-as-dup-threatens-tories-over-ni-abortion-law-reform/

Orr is also one of the columnists, who’ve repeated the anti-Semitism smears against the Labour party and Ken Livingstone. Last week in her column she claimed that Leninspart had said that Hitler was a Zionist, and called him ‘a fool’. In fact, the depraved Marxist newt-fancier had said no such thing. He had said that Hitler briefly supported Zionism ‘before he went mad and killed the Jews’. This is actually solid, established fact. Under the Ha’avara Agreement, the Nazis did support sending German Jews to Israel with the Zionist organisations. As Mike’s pointed out over and again, you can find this on the website of the International Holocaust Museum in Israel.

Livingstone’s comment that Hitler killed the Jews in the Holocaust only after he went mad is wrong. Historians of the Third Reich have argued that the implications of Hitler’s anti-Semitism were clear from the outset, even if he only started murdering the Jews en masse from 1942 onwards. The Nazis made absolutely no secret of their murderous hatred of the Jews. Joachim C. Fest in his biography of Hitler records how the Nazis in Berlin even sang about having ‘the Jew lies bleeding at our feet’. This is quite apart from their real attacks on Jews, and their brutal persecution in Germany and Austria before the Final Solution.

However, Leninspart hasn’t been smeared as an anti-Semite because of his belief that Hitler hadn’t planned the Jews extermination from the start. He was smeared because he raised an awkward fact of history that the Israel lobby, and its enabler in the mainstream press and the political parties, can’t tolerate: that Hitler briefly allied with the Zionists, without being a Zionist himself.

And Orr couldn’t tolerate that fact herself. Or perhaps she was just too lazy and complacent to research the historical fact behind Livingstone’s statement. Either way, she was happy to repeat the Israel lobby’s contemptible lie.

Either way, her article shows that if you really want to know what’s going on, check Mike’s blog, and those of the other great left-wing bloggers and vloggers he follows and cites.

Frightened Davidson Tells May to Concentrate on Funding NHS

A day or so ago I put up a post arguing that Corbyn’s promise to renationalise the NHS had Tweezer and the Tories rattled, as there had been a story in the I that May had held the promise of repealing some of Andrew Lansley’s vile Health and Social Care Act. This is a long, convoluted act which basically absolves the Health Minister of the requirement to provide universal healthcare free at the point of delivery to everyone in Britain. It’s one of the major landmarks on the long campaign of the Thatcherite right – both Tory and New Labour – to privatise the NHS. May was also talking about increasing taxes to mend the funding deficit in the NHS. This was, however, spoilt by May acting true to form as a Tory. She immediately declared that everyone would have to pay this tax, which could be as high as £2,000. Mike’s posted a piece on his blog about how this was worked out, and pointed out that not everyone should have to pay the same amount. We have progressive taxation in this country, which means that the rich pay higher rates of tax than the poor, who can’t afford it. The Tories, however, hate progressive taxation, because they’re solidly on the side of the rich and despise the poor. And so Thatcher, Major, Cameron and now May have done their best to shift the tax burden onto the poor, in order to lower the tax rates on their rich friends. And Thatcher came unstuck in 1990/1 when she tried to promote the poll tax.

Like May’s proposed tax increase for the NHS, this was supposed to be a uniform rate charged on rich and poor alike. It was expected to replace the rates, which were charged on the value of your property. So a rich Tory donor living in a mansion was going to be charged the same amount of money as someone on unemployment benefit living in a simple terraced house. Never mind: Thatcher and her cabinet of grotesques claimed this was ‘democratic, because we all pay the same’. The British public didn’t agree, and there were massed protests and riots against it. I also know of a number of magistrates, who resigned because of it. As Justices of the Peace, they would be required to enforce this piece of legislation, which they personally felt was terribly unjust. And rather than find people guilty in support of a law, with which they profoundly disagreed, they obeyed the calls of their consciences and resigned. And I have every respect to these people for doing so. Thatcher was then outed in a coup, Major installed as her replacement, and unfortunately the Tories carried on in power until Blair’s victory in 1997.

It struck me at the time, as I said in my previous article, that May was probably trying to scare people with the £2,000 figure, which many poorer people wouldn’t be able to afford, so she could claim that the NHS is unaffordable as it stands. Cue more privatisation. Despite the fact that we could easily afford it if we took a leaf out of the European’s book and spent more on the NHS, and increased the tax rates for the rich instead.

But the fact that May is holding out the prospect of undoing her predecessor’s legislation, and raising taxes for the NHS, shows that Corbyn’s got her rattled.

And not just May. It also seems to have worried ‘Rape Clause’ Ruth Davidson north of the Border. The I ran a story on Tuesday reporting that Davidson had warned may to concentrate on increasing funding for the NHS, and ditch plans for more tax cuts. If she didn’t, she risked relegating the Tories to history.

This shows just how far the panic is spreading in the Tory party. Quite apart from Davidson and Gove forming a think tank – surely an oxymoron in their cases – to reinvigorate the Tory party with new ideas. Because, they warn, if they don’t have them, the Tories may be out of power for a whole generation.

Well, I’d just love to see this vile party and its horrendous politicians thrust out of power, and not just for a generation. That’s too short a time.

As for the gurning, smirking leader of the Tories in Scotland, today’s I carried pieces from a couple of newspapers predicting that Davidson is too young, ambitious and talented to be content to remain head of the Tories in Scotland. According to them, she will most probably try to head down south to forge a political career in Britain and Wales. What a terrible prospect! Davidson is responsible for trying to implement the government’s wretched austerity campaign in Scotland, including its demand that women, who’ve had more than two children due to rape, should have to prove this is the case when claiming child benefit. Hence her soubriquet of ‘Rape Clause’. It’s a nasty piece of vindictive legislation which punishes already vulnerable women, who have been traumatised by their sexual assault. But this is the Tories, who have absolute contempt for the poor, the weak and the underprivileged. Davidson is supposed to be a ‘liberal’ Tory, but there’s no evidence of that except her sexuality. And despite May’s attempts to position herself as a feminist, this is a thoroughly misogynist piece of legislation. The last thing the rest of Britain needs is for her to come down south to spread even more misery down here.

Actually, reading between the line, it’s possible that Davidson may not have a choice. For all that she’s supposed to have masterminded the revival of the Tories in Scotland, she didn’t actually increase their vote. Instead, the SNP’s vote decreased and Labour’s revived, which split the opposition and allowed the Tories to emerge as the largest single party, even though most
Scots voted against them. Which is another argument in favour of proportional representation. Given the parlous situation of the Tories in Scotland, it’s possible that the Scots may vote them out. This would result in the party looking around for a new leader, and Davidson given her marching orders. In which case, if she wanted to continue her career, she’d have to go south.

I don’t want her coming to England and Wales, but I look forward to the Scots voting out the Tories and their thoroughly grotesque and objectionable leader.

RT: Report Shows Benefit Sanctions Have Negative Effects on Claimants

Mike last week put up a piece about the report compiled by a number of British universities, which showed that the sanctions regime imposed by the DWP does absolutely no good at all, and in fact has negative consequences for claimants. It does not help them to find work, and in fact pushes them further into depression and mental illness.

In this clip from RT, presenter Bill Dod talks to Steve Topple of the Canary, here credited as a political commenter. Topple states that the report, which was compiled over five years from countless individual cases, just shows what disability rights activists and organisations like DPAC, and political commenters like himself have known all along.

The programme quotes the DWP, which states that 70 per cent of claimants said that the regime helped them to find work, and that sanctions were only meted out in a small minority of cases and the DWP tailored its help to individual cases. Topple states that the Department’s response, that 70 per cent of claimants say that it helped them find work, is meaningless because they were looking for work anyway.

Dod then challenges him with the question of whether some people, who can work, do find life on benefits more attractive than getting a job. Topple despatches this myth by quoting the real figures for benefit fraud, which is something like 1.6 per cent.

Topple then goes on to attack the sanctions’ systems origins with New Labour. It was Tony Blair, who introduced it in 2007, with disastrous effects on the disabled. Instead of being given the care to which they were entitled when the NHS was set up, disabled people were now redefined as ‘fit for work’, even when they weren’t. Topple makes the point that the sanctions system now divides people into two groups. They’re either fit for work, and so supposed to be out looking for a job, or unfit and marginalised. He points out that there have been five reports already condemning Britain’s sanction system – four from the UN, one from the EU, and that what is needed is a thorough report into the DWP. Topple clearly has his facts at his fingertips, as he says very clearly after dismissing the DWP’s rebuttals point by point that he could go on for hours.

In fact, it’s possible to attack and refute all of the DWP’s statement about benefit sanctions. Sanctions are not imposed on a small minority of cases. They’ve been imposed on a large number, apparently for no reason other than that the Jobcentres have targets to meet of the number of claimants they are supposed to throw off benefits. And they have been imposed for the most trivial reasons. As for help being tailored to meet the needs of individual claimants, it’s true that sometimes there are schemes that are available for some claimants in some circumstances, but I’ve seen no evidence that the DWP does this with all, or even the majority of claimants. And the statement that it is reasonable for the Department to impose certain conditions on claimants for the receipt of their benefits is just more self-serving nonsense. It doesn’t, for example, say anything about the way some sick and disabled people have been thrown off benefits for missing interviews, when they have had extremely good reasons: like they were ill in hospital, for example.

Mike in his post about the report wondered why the government carried on with the sanctions system, when it didn’t work. The answer’s fairly obvious. The Tories, and New Labour, hate the poor and the ill. New Labour’s policy was based on the assumption that many people claiming disability benefit were simply malingerers, courtesy of a series of quack studies supported by Unum or one of the other American private health insurers. And the Tories and the Tory press hate the unemployed, the poor and the disabled because they see them as a drain on the money that the rich should be allowed to keep for themselves, rather than taken in taxes to support them. And they also know that it’s a very good tactic for them to divide the working class by getting those in work, but feeling the pinch from low wages and job insecurity, to hate those out of work by demonising them as malingerers and idle fraudsters. It distracts people from attacking the true source of the poverty and insecurity – the rich, corporate elite and their programme of low wages, zero hours contracts and increasing freedom to lay off whomever they choose, for whatever reason.

No, the sanctions system doesn’t work. But it expresses the right-wing, Thatcherite hatred of the poor and sick, and is a useful tool for maintaining a divided, cowed workforce, and generating the entirely misplaced anger from those deceived by the system, which keeps the Tories in government.

Peter Stefanovic: Certain Members of the Government Should be Handcuffed and Charged with Criminal Negligence

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sun, 20/05/2018 - 6:49pm in

Peter Stefanovic is one of the great critics of the government and its foul policies, whose tweets have been reposted by Mike. In this very short video from the Artist Taxi Driver, Stefanovic tells him exactly what he thinks should be done to certain members of the government.

Stefanovic and Chunky Mark are in Nottingham, and the video comes after a conference on mental health care and awareness. Stefanovic states that there is a crisis in care, and that people are dying as a result. He says that the greatest threat to mental health services today is the gross negligence of this government, combined with the massive ineptitude of Jeremy Hunt. He describes Hunt as the ‘worst (health) secretary I have ever known’, and then goes on to say that it goes far beyond ineptitude into criminal negligence. He ends by saying that if he had his way, there are certain members of the government, who would be handcuffed, charged and thrown in jail for gross negligence – manslaughter. It’s that simple.’

He’s right, except that I don’t believe the deaths and the cuts are the result of incompetence. I think they’re the result of a carefully considered policy of destroying the NHS ready for its privatisation. This is what the Tories want, ever since Margaret Thatcher, and 20 years before her, in the 1950s, when the Tory right declared we couldn’t afford it.

They hope that if they run it down and make it as error-ridden and as substandard as possible, people will happily move to private healthcare. Or at least, the affluent middle classes. And so it’s privatisation will go ahead relatively painlessly, rather than with the massive outcry and electoral annihilation the Tories would face if they privatised it immediately.

Save the NHS. Get them out. Now.

Esther McVie and the Rape Clause: Adding Lies and Insults to Traumatic Assault

I really can’t let this go without comment. In one of the history books I’ve got here at home, there’s an observation that you can tell how civilised a culture is by how high the status of women is. I think it’s in part of the book discussing the ancient Egyptians, where the status of women was very high for the ancient world. If that’s the case, then Esther McVile and the Tories are dragging us back into real barbarism.

McVile was before the Scots parliament this week to give her testimony regarding child benefit, and the infamous ‘rape clause’. You can only receive child benefit for two children, but it is available for rape victims, provided they can show that their third child was conceived through rape. This in itself is immensely controversial, and Ruth Davidson, the head of the Tories in Scotland, briefly earned herself the soubriquet ‘Rape Clause Ruth’ after she got up on her hind legs to justify the rape clause. That was repulsive enough. Now the Tories have gone even lower and got Esther McVie to try to defend the indefensible.

And what did the Wicked Witch of the Wirral say? That the rape clause offered victims the chance to talk about their assault, and offered them ‘double support’.

It does no such thing. Everything about the modern Job Centre interview is design to humiliate, bully and degrade the prospective claimant. It’s all part of Thatcher’s sacred Victorian values. She followed the ‘less eligibility’ ideology of the workhouse, in which claiming benefits was to be made so harsh and degrading that only the very desperate would willingly go on them.

As for the psychological harm rape does, I know very little about it. But I do know that it leaves victims traumatised and mentally scarred. They may irrationally blame themselves, and definitely do not want to relive the experience over and over again. I can remember watching a documentary on Channel 4 about new advances in neuroscience and mental health, which included a piece about doctors in Canada, who were treating a French Canadian lady. This poor woman was still massively depressed and anxious a year or more after her assault. And it goes without saying that there are any number of rape victims like her. They don’t like talking about their experience, and they feel so deeply ashamed that in general they really don’t want other people knowing about it.

And the DWP is not known for its sensitivity. Like when its wretched servants ask depressives why they haven’t committed suicide yet. No depressed person should be asked this question. And no rape victim should be required to describe the event for an unsympathetic bureaucrat, whose only concern is to find some excuse to sanction their benefits.

One of the many great commenters on Mike’s blog, Aunty1960, posted this about their experience of the way the DWP handles rape claims.

I have witness statements on my After Atos feedback survey from rape and child sex survivors who say they have to recount their ordeal up to ten times every time they are called for an assessment as they have to again go through it with GP social worker, psychiartrist, DWP physiotherapist counsellor etc etc in order to get each bit of paper and supportive documentary evidence.

The assessors are not understanding or supportive and can ask really inappropriate and insensitive questions.

One witness statement says that all the work that has been done over the years has been totally undone because of having to go through the assessments and retell it and relive it everytime. No closure and respect for PTSD triggers, just keep opening the wound over and over again.

Some very inappropriate comments by assessor on women and their sexuality and sexual experiences. Even outright disapproval of a woman being a lesbian and inappropriate comments.

A lot of work undone and lost. and that includes physical ailments where interventions have been completely undone and undermined.

I cannot stand most people most of the time and professionals about sexual abuse and social discrimination and prejudice, Same ideas still there. This just reinforce and compounds it 100 times more.

But McVile’s statement is designed to play to that part of the Tory-voting public, who are fortunate never to have stepped into a jobcentre, at least, not recently. The people, who are prepared to take the Tories comments about their welfare reforms at face value, and swallow all the lies about how they’re not cutting benefits, their simply refocusing them to help people better. The lies that workfare isn’t about giving cheap, subsidised forced labour to big business, including the supermarkets, but about helping people into work by giving them new skills and other such specious rubbish. Quite apart from the morons that believes the lies put out by the Scum, the Heil and the Depress that all benefit claimants are really scroungers, no matter how severe their disability. ‘Cause these papers says so, and they saw that character in a wheelchair running about in Little Britain. Oh yes, and single mothers only have babies to claim the child and other benefits.You can read off the standard Tory attitudes of the people, who will believes McVile’s monstrous, platitudinous lies, almost like ticking boxes in a list.

Not the Scots, however. The day after McVile uttered this bilge, they organised a demonstration against her. Bravo! and maximum respect! McVie is truly vile, along with the rest of the squad running the DWP – Damian Green and his predecessor, Ian Duncan Smith. All of them should be cleaned out and charged with crimes against humanity for their role in manipulating the benefits system to cause the victims of their sanctions to starve to death or commit suicide.

Unfortunately, they’re likely to be rewarded instead. Rape Clause Ruth was in today’s papers because Time magazine has named her one of the 20 most influential women, or at least, influential women in Scotland. Which is enough to have millions of Scots voting SNP because of Nicola Sturgeon. Although I’d rather see named as more influential than Davidson the actress, who played Mary Hen, Rab. C. Nesbit’s long-suffering wife.

Apart from being offensive in itself, McVile’s stupid comments are dangerous because they try to justify a system that is causing people harm. And her words themselves are likely to upset victims of sexual assault and their families. One of the things I’ve learned from being made redundant along with others is that it isn’t just an official action that hurts. It’s also the dull platitudes management offer to try and make it more palatable. I used to be a civil servant years ago, and one day a whole group of us were called in individually to be told we were going to be made redundant. One young lad left in tears. Talking to him afterwards, he told me that it wasn’t the redundancy itself, but the nonsense the manager came out with about the possibility of getting jobs elsewhere in offices in the area. The lad knew that there was no hope of that. The redundancy stung, and what made it all the worse was the smooth assurances made by someone from outside the office to make it all seem better. McVie’s comments are like that, but much worse because of the horrific nature of the crime to which these women have been subjected.

McVie deserves her nickname. She really is vile, and so are the rest of her corrupt and mendacious crew. Get them out, and Labour in!

Lobster Review of Pro-Jewish, Pro-Zionist Book Against Israel, and Against Israel Lobby In America: Part One

I found this review of by Lobster’s Tom Easton of Michael Neumann’s The Case Against Israel (Oakland: Counterpunch & Edinburgh: AK press) and James Petras’ The Power of Israel in the United States (Atlanta and Black Point: Clarity Press adn Fernwood Books) in Lobster 52. That issue of the magazine is on line, but it’s one of those you have to pay for. I’ve decided to reproduce it here, because it shows the issues that are really at stake over the anti-Semitism smears against the Labour party. This is about preserving the Israeli state from criticism for its barbarous and murderous campaign of persecution and ehtnic cleansing against the Palestinians, and the way it has built up a powerful lobby to hide its activities through a very aggressive advocacy campaign in the US.

Here’s the article.

In a year in which Israel’s attacks on Lebanon and Gaza were accompanied by more stories of New Labour loans and the arrest (twice) of Tony Blair’s fundraiser and Middle East ‘envoy’ Lord Levy, it would have been good to have seen British publications examining how Israel is bound up with the politics of its allies. But apart from the decision in March by the London Review of Books (LRB) to publish US academics John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt on the Israel lobby in their country, Britain has no serious recent initiatives on that front.

The New Statesman (NS) made a stab at the job in the 2002, but suffered very heavy criticism for its’anti-Semitism’ from, among others, the then Labour general secretary and now Foreign Office minister and colleague of Lord Levy, David Triesman. In the week that I write this, the award-winning NS political editor Martin Bright describes ‘Blair’s twin shame of Iraq and cash for honours’ as ‘on the one hand, a foreign policy catastrophe; on the other, a classic domestic sleaze scandal’. Several American writers, including one of the two authors under review, try to investigate links between ‘foreign policy catastrophe’ and ‘domestic sleaze’. One wonders how many years will pass before the NS will feel aboe to return to the subject of Zionism and New Labour, and when the LRB will feel able to run a piece on the Israel lobby in the UK.

When journalists and academics tiptoe around this elephant in the front room of British politics they leave a gap in our political understanding that is important for at least two reasons.

The one is that links between Israel and its supporters in Britain are a legitimate subject for inquiry given the extent to which those advocating terrorist tactics here often identify themselves as critics of Israel. If, as Home Secretary John Reid said in October, the ‘war on terror’ now demands the ingenuity shown by Barnes Walls and Alan Turing in opposing Nazi Germany, we are surely under a democratic obligation to ask how matters have come to such a pass that our traditional liberties are being so readily and uncritically jeopardised.

A second reason is that thre ‘war on terror’ agenda has now become indelibly linked in the minds of many with hostility to Muslims, a recipe for serious difficulties in a society as diverse as Britain. This is paralleled in some circles with talk about the ‘clash of civilisations’ stimulated by Bernard Lewis and Samuel Huntingdon soon after the collapse of the Soviet Union.

The work of Benjamin Netanyahu and the Jonathan Institute (Lobster 47 et seq) in promoting the ‘war on terror’ agenda to serve the interests of Israel goes back well before that time. But once the Berlin Wall fell, the blame for terrorism switched from the Kremlin and KGB to Israel’s neighbours and Islamic radicalism. Yet virtually all of the British electorate remains in ignorance of the origins and pruposes of this strategy.

These two books by small US publishers are not in themselves likely to change the direction of global politics. But in the extent that they chime with shifting American perceptions of Israel and policy in the Middle East (this is written ahead of the November mid-term elections), they may inform some in that movement for change. As we in New Labour Britain follow the US on so many things, the work of Michael Neumann and James Petras may just tempt the odd British writer and publisher into trying something similar here.

Neumann is a philosopher who, in the first sentence of The Case Against Israel, spells out his biases: ‘Mine are pro-Israel and pro-Jewish’. He says he uses ‘no material from Palestinian sources’ and adds that his book ‘presents the case against Israel, not Israelis’. Having further cleared the decks by telling us of his family’s suffering at the hands of the Nazis and his early predisposition towards Israel, he sketches his main agrument as follows:

‘The Zionist project, as con-
ceived in the 19th and early
20th century, was entirely
unjustified and could reasonably
be regarded by the inhabitants
of Palestine as a very serious
threat, the total domination by
one ethnic group of all others
in the region. Some form of
resistance was, therefore,
justified. That Zionist Jews,
and Jews generally, may later
have acquired pressing reasons
for wanting a Jewish state does
not change this. The legitimacy
of the Zionist project was the
major cause of all the terror
and warfare that it aroused.’

Neumann says what followed did not result from a long-standing territorial dispute between long-established populations. Rather, he says, the Zionists sought

‘to implant an ethnic sovereignty
in what was to them a foreign
land, on the basis of a population
expressly imported to secure that
end. Unlike other occasions for
territorial compromise, this one
did not involve two existing people
pursuing competing claims. Instead,
there was a claim at whose service
a people was to be created by
immigration from outside the area.
That claim was to be pursued against
the existing inhabitants, who had
never thought to advance some claim
of their own against the Jewish
people.’

The writer concludes his section on the birth of Israel thus:

‘The illegitimacy of Zionism
has important implications
for the legitimacy of israel
itself and for the early history
of that state. It was wrong to
pursue the Zionist project and
wrong to achieve it. For that
reason, how it was pursued and
achieved has little bearing on
the fundamental rights and wrongs
of the Israel/Palestinian conflict
…Zionism initiated a process
whose evolution was foreseeable
and understandable. Zionists are,
therefore, to an unusual degree
responsible for the consequences
of that fateful step. Their
project was not like raising a
child who, unexpectedly, turns
psychotic, but like releasing a
homicidal maniac – a child of
ethnic nationalism – into the
world. This is why the blame for
the conflict falls so heavily on
Zionist and so lightly on Palestinian
shoulders.’

But all that, says Neumann, does not argue the case for Israel’s destruction, any more than that fate should befall the United States because it was founded on genocide, massacre and exploitation. He says: ‘Israel’s existence is tainted, not sacred, but it is protected in the same useful international conventions tyhat allow others in the name of peace, to retain their ill-gotten gains.’

Continued in Part Two.

What To Do About The Graduate Student Mental Health Crisis

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 07/03/2018 - 2:12am in

A study of depression and anxiety among graduate students has found that 39% of its survey respondents “scored in the moderate-to-severe depression range.”

The study, “Mental Health Crisis in Graduate Education: The Data and Intervention Strategies,” by Teresa Marie Evans (UT Health San Antonio), Lindsay Bira (UT Health San Antonio), Jazmin Beltran-Gastelum (St. Mary’s), L. Todd Weiss (Kentucky), and Nathan Vanderford (Kentucky) and another study showing high rates of depression among graduate students, “Work organization and mental health problems in PhD students,” by Katia Levecque (Ghent), Frederik Anseel (Ghent), Alain De Beuckelaer (Radboud), JohanVan der Heyden (Scientific Institute of Public Health, Brussels), and Lyddia Gisle (Scientific Institute of Public Health, Brussels), are discussed today in an article at Inside Higher Ed.

Self-selection bias may have inflated the numbers in both studies, but even discounting them by half would leave the rates of depression they found among graduate students strikingly higher than the 6% found in the general population.

What to do about this? Colleen Flaherty at IHE reports:

The authors suggest that institutions follow a successful National Institutes of Health program “train the trainer” model, in which faculty members and administrators are trained by mental health professionals to recognize and respond to students’ needs, providing referrals as needed. The same model could be used by career development professionals to train faculty members to help today’s Ph.D.s compete in the “vast and ever-changing job market,” they added.

Perhaps less simple, the study advocates a “shift in the culture within academia to eliminate the stigma [surrounding mental health issues] and ensure that students are not reluctant to communicate openly with their faculty advisors.” The authors do note that many in academe have spoken out about their own struggles. Yet, they say, fears of not gaining tenure or otherwise being judged by colleagues remain.

The paper also pushes for work-life balance, which it acknowledges is “hard to attain in a culture where it is frowned upon to leave the laboratory before the sun goes down,” especially in an ever-competitive funding environment. Faculty and administrators must nevertheless “set a tone of self-care as well as an efficient and mindful work ethic” to move the dial, they say.

Some readers may recall philosopher Peter Railton’s Dewey Lecture at the 2015 Central Division Meeting of the American Philosophical Association (APA), in which he discussed his experience with mental illness and called for more openness about it, as well as the “Philosophy and Depression” post in which many philosophers answered Railton’s call. There have also been discussions of mental illness in the interviews conducted at Discrimination and Disadvantagefor example, this one with Audrey Yap (Univ. Victoria).

In an effort to elaborate on how to pursue any of the three strategies discussed above for responding to high rates of mental illness among graduate students, or alternatives to them, those who have had positive and negative experiences, at the levels of institutional policy or interpersonal interaction, are invited to share their views about what has helped and what hasn’t.


Edgar Degas, “Two Dancers Resting”

The post What To Do About The Graduate Student Mental Health Crisis appeared first on Daily Nous.

Police, Political Figures and Vigilante Attacks on the Homeless: Fascist ‘Social Cleansing’

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Mon, 05/03/2018 - 5:00am in

Mike put up a piece earlier today, reporting and commenting on an article in the Groaniad stating that charities dealing with homelessness were concerned about action taken against rough sleepers from the police, political figures and vigilante groups. This was after the cops in Cambridgeshire claimed that every single homeless beggar in Ely was fake, and making considerable amounts of money from feeding on others’ charity. A local businessman in Devon has also launched his own vigilante campaign against the ‘fake’ homeless, which has ordinary people in Torquay photographing them, and then putting up posters identifying them. And the head of Windsor council, who wanted rough sleepers cleared from the borough, has said that he intends to increase the numbers of community wardens to tackle antisocial behaviour.

Mike links these actions, and the demonization of rough sleepers, to the processes leading up to genocide. This is stage one: classification.

See: https://voxpoliticalonline.com/2018/03/04/homeless-charities-slam-open-season-on-street-people/

Mike isn’t exaggerating this threat. We’ve seen how the Tories are going about a silent, chequebook genocide of the poor and disabled by clearing them off the benefits they need to survive, on the very flimsiest of excuses. And real attacks on the homeless do occur. Rough sleepers commonly live with the threat of violence from members of the public.

But there have also been attacks and murders of homeless people by Fascists. Way back in the early ’90s, during the Bosnian War, BBC news carried chilling footage from Colombia of a homeless man being killed by a gang. This group of thugs declared that this was ‘social cleansing’, in emulation of the ethnic cleansing being waged by the Serbs, as well as the Croats and Muslims, in the former Yugoslavia. And the inventor of electric shock treatment to treat mental illness was a doctor in Fascist Italy, who began his experiments on an unwilling homeless man he’d dragged off the street.

This is what can happen – what will happen – if these developments don’t go unchecked. The Tories and their lapdogs in the rightwing press are turning Britain into a Fascist society, and the end result will be officially sanctioned murder on the streets as people here decide to do a bit of ‘social cleansing of their own’.

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