Wednesday 21 January 2015.
Dear Mr Cameron,
I have never been able to decide whether depression is down to nature or nurture. I suspect it’s both and I also suspect it is something for which there will never be a definitive answer. Even looking back to the years I spent in its unremitting solitary confinement, I cannot say that it was entirely an illness and not also a response to events and circumstances over which I had no control as a child.
What is certainly true for me is that the change from years of lock down in a continuous black hell hole to something which these days is more of a roller coaster with highs in which the depression is low grade to those times of descent into the blackest hell came about through many years of therapy and growing self awareness. After decades of various medications, some utterly hideous and others simply useless, I am no fan of medication, but consider that a personal, considered, choice rather than anything I would advocate for anyone else.
It really came as no surprise, however, to read that your government is considering mandatory treatments for depression under threat of loss of benefits for non-compliance. It is the stupendous arrogant ignorance of paternalists everywhere to think that they know best just as loss of control and feelings of helplessness are one of the triggers for depression and the frequent cause of short term depression for which Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT) can be a very helpful aid. Where CBT is less helpful, if not entirely useless, is in dealing with long term, chronic, conditions.
Unrestrained paternalism is one of the worst aspects of the Tory mind set, dominating and dictating the policies that are driving ordinary people down and, in far too many cases already, destroying their lives. To name but one of your victims, Stephanie Bottrill suffered from depression, which she had clearly managed and survived for 53 years. albeit with inevitable difficulty. It was the imposition of your bedroom tax which became the tipping point in her life driving her to end her own life. The note she left for her son was very clear, “Don’t blame yourself for me ending my life. The only people to blame are the Government.” Although this was disputed by a family relative, he came across with all the presumption of yet another paternalist.
The very worst of your policies are depriving people of the means of survival, driving people into enforced helplessness. There is no possible excuse for targeting vulnerable people in this way. It is no surprise that the number people suffering depression, stress and anxiety problems have risen since the recession as you and your government continue to actively target the poor without mercy.