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Revealed: the devastating impact of austerity on mental health

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​Third sector coalition says cuts affect mental health recovery and increase isolation

Three quarters of Scots with long-running mental health problems say their recovery has been negatively impacted by public spending cuts.

A bombshell new report lays out in detail the toxic effect years of service loss and stress are having on those suffering mental health issues.

Real People Deeper Cuts was compiled by Vox, a Scotland-wide third sector coalition which includes Bipolar Scotland, Borders New Horizons, Lanarkshire Links, Psychiatric Rights Scotland, the Scottish Dementia Working group and West Dunbartonshire Mental Health Forum.

Polling their members they found that spending cuts negatively affect mental health recovery and increase isolation.

In particular, people spoke out about how vital services have been degraded and lost.

A negative or strong negative impact on people’s mental health and recovery was felt by over 76% of people as a direct result of changes to services due to spending reviews.

And over 82% felt a negative or strong impact on their social networks.

Almost half of all respondents had seen a reduction in access to social/cultural and leisure services due to closures, reduction in opening times and or need to travel further to access them, while over 26% of people did not access any social/cultural or leisure services at all.

More than 40% of people had experienced a reduction in staffing levels at services over the last three years due to spending cuts. A third of people reported a negative effect on their mental health condition due to additional conditions on their benefits, such as requirements to attend more meetings or attend courses on a regular basis in order to continue to receiving their benefit.

Around 20% of people had completely lost a mental health service, group or activity that they accessed in the past; and many reported having to travel much further to reach other services.

The report is accompanied by the personal testimony of those affected.

One said: “I am financially struggling and I feel more stressed and it impacted on my mental health severely, where I attempted suicide by jumping from my top flat bathroom window. I feel like I am letting my kids down, not providing properly for them. I feel worthless and helpless.”

Another said: “I’ve gone from someone who worked full time despite an underlying mental health condition, to someone unable to work, unable to access health care or community support.

“The social care I’m allocated is unable to meet my needs. The service I have found helpful is closing due to council cuts. I can’t see any hope at all; I’ve tried to keep going despite deteriorating health, but the removal of hope by both health care, social care cuts, benefit freezes leave me just functioning in survival mode.”

A spokesman for Vox, a member lead organisation for, of and by people with lived experience of mental health problems, said: “We have experienced a clear reduction in people’s mental wellbeing and recovery of mental health conditions as a direct result of the last few years of spending cuts and welfare reform.

“While we are hopeful that there is positive language in the media about the importance of mental health being treated with equality in respect to physical health there is little evidence that anything is changing on the ground yet for people.”

The report is not yet available online, but find out more on the VOX website.