You can tell three things about whoever thought it might be a good idea to take away benefits for unemployed people who refuse therapy for depression.
First, they have never been unemployed. Second, they have never been depressed. Third, they have never been unemployed and depressed.
Since I have, I’m here to tell you: it doesn’t work that way. Unemployment makes you depressed, even if you weren’t depressed. Unemployment makes depression worse, if you’re prone to it. Unemployment and depression is a dark spiral in which your diminishing self worth is constantly attacked by the evidence around you of your failure. Failure to work, failure to stop being depressed. Failure all round.
Another reason I can tell whichever person scribbled this fag packet proposal down has never been through depression is that you can’t just get therapy. You get put onto a waiting list. Depending on your postcode, this could be six months if you are lucky or a year and a half if you’re not. A bit of a poser if you’re depressed and need help right now. In that intervening time, things could get a lot worse.
And that’s if you seek help. By its nature depression can force you inwards. It causes shame and despair. It can make you shun the outside world altogether. It’s a huge effort just to make it down the shops sometimes or talk to another person. Going to a GP, with the attendant negotiation with a receptionist who wants to convince you that you don’t want to go and that if your problem isn’t “urgent” then you don’t deserve to see a doctor, is stressful in itself. Not a task to complete when you’re in the depths.
But imagine getting all the way there, to realise you have a problem and that you need help, only to be told that you have to wait over a year for help. Imagine what that would do.
Of course you can go private for 40 or 50 pounds per hour, but guess what? When you’re unemployed you don’t have that kind of money.
Sure, antidepressants help. They saved my life. But far from “rejecting” talking therapies, unemployed people – those who have reached the point where they realise that they need that kind of help – are crying out for something that is denied to them.
But here is where we are. People must be happy under pain of punishment. If you’re depressed and unemployed the best thing to do is be punished and sanctioned. If you don’t demand the treatment you can’t actually have for months or years, you will be blacklisted.
I’m sure whoever decided this possible policy had the best intentions. By which I mean they had the best intentions of looking tough on “scroungers” for their cheerleader tabloid friends without caring in the slightest about the human lives involved. As such it’s effective.
But for anyone who has been there it’s another lie. Another piece of demonisation. Another boot kicking at your face. Another deliberate misunderstanding. They don’t understand and they don’t want to understand.