The 'really disabled' argument

At Mental Snapp, we don’t refer to ‘mental health service users’ but to ‘people actively managing their mental health’. Which to a certain extent we all do, but for some it is a more full time occupation than others.

In the light of this, it seems appropriate to look at George Freeman’s remarks today, which have rightly attracted attention from campaigners. Link What he says about ‘really disabled people’ is remarkable and cannot be explained away by his own experience of depression and anxiety, which does not qualify him to comment from his position as someone in employment and paid at the scale he undoubtedly is. I hope he comes to realise that he has made an error of judgement. Particularly as he announced last year a massive fillip to mental health funding for digital apps, which has still not yet materialised, but we live in hope. Link

It is our position at Mental Snapp that anyone actively managing their mental health must of necessity make time for this in their life. For some people this will be a minor interest in terms of their day to day routine. For some it will be a full time job. And people should be paid for a full time job, which does contribute to society. For by actively managing their mental health, they are saving the NHS a ton of money.

I did the maths on this, looking at my own personal situation for an example. But the argument is as wide as it is deep. Hospital beds in the NHS cost £400 per night Link. When I stay in hospital for my mental health, as I did in 2011, the cost to the NHS of my three month stay therefore was a staggering £36,000. When I go into hospital, as I have now 5 times for my mental health over the course of my career, the length of stay tends to be in that order of magnitude. And I have received DLA and ESA in order to support my mental health because I was unable to work. So technically in that time I was unemployed.

In fact, of course, I was working, in that I was actively managing my mental health. I am now in full employment. But the difference to my mental health that that stability of income from the state made was enormous. And – given my circumstances at the time of my last admission in 2011, as a mother to a young son – the cost to society of any further relapse or family breakdown would’ve been compounded by the ripple effect they would have caused. So I would argue that my receiving DLA – now known as PIP – saved society money.

If you look at the maths of this, a month in hospital costs the NHS £12,000. By contrast, PIP is paid at a maximum rate of £139.75 a week, or a minimum rate of £21.80. Link By my calculations, that equates to a maximum of £7187 per year or a minimum of £1121. It’s not much of a wage for what for some people is a full time job. And look at what they are saving the system.

I have to say that I feel ambivalent about equating mental health wholly with the disability movement. It seems to me that it is a slightly separate category. But I have no problem at all defending the rights of people who need to actively manage their mental health on a full time basis to receive fair recompense for what they contribute to society.

At Mental Snapp we are committed to helping those who actively manage their mental health to draw out the skills they already have to do it more effectively. I hope that George Freeman, who is on our mailing list, has a chance to read and reflect on this. And I wish everyone who is managing their mental health today a happy Monday.