The Daily Express, which apparently doesn’t pay a good enough wage to attract a capable proofreader for its headlines, launches one of its typical attacks on people on incapacity benefits with Leo McKinstry’s offensive and insulting claim that:

It is telling that more than1.1million incapacity claimants are not suffering from any physical disability at all, but get their handouts by moaning about problems like “stress” and “depression”.

Suicide is the second most common cause of death in young people after accidental death. The Mental Health Foundation estimates that 70 per cent of recorded suicides are by people experiencing depression. According to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, 90% who those who die by suicide have a diagnosable psychiatric disorder at the time of their death, most often depression or bipolar disorder. A Samaritans survey found that jobs are the single biggest cause of stress – and that the link between work and suicide is likely to be underestimated.

It’s almost comical to see papers like the Express accuse people of “moaning” about stress, because their health pages are nearly always full of reports about the terrible stress of the workplace. They’re right there – the British Medical Journal has reported that people with stressful jobs are twice as likely to die from heart disease, and a government report found people who work over 48 hours per week have double the risk of heart disease.

So perhaps they’re just jealous, and wish they could live on seventy quid a week instead of being paid whatever they get to write columns for the press. Leo McKinstry thinks we have an “easy lifetime on the dole”, which just shows what an ignorant bigot he is.

No one suffering from mental illness has an “easy lifetime”. We face constant struggle in a way that Mr McKinstry is incapable of imagining. It is not a matter of “moral fibre”, it is a matter of brain chemistry (and social prejudice and stigma). Everyone gets stressed at times, but for someone with PTSD for instance that can mean being unable to leave your home, unable to walk down the street, unable to do basic tasks without having flashbacks. The chemistry of PTSD is well researched and people cannot control a dramatically increased cortisol response by having a stiff upper lip.

As the Secret Life of a Manic Depressive puts it, “I am sick of this bullshit being published. Swap places with someone incapacitated by schizophrenia for a week, you fucking idiots.”

Later today I’ll be adding a new contributer to the blog, who’ll be writing more about life with depression. For now I’ll leave you with the tidbit that the NHS watchdog has warned that “stress, anxiety and depression in the workplace is costing employers billions of pounds”. So apparently even if we had jobs, we’d be costing the economy money. If the economy is all you care about, I guess that’s more important than our personal suffering.

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