Mental Health Experts Warn of 'Emotional Toxicity' of Neoliberalism

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Mental Health Experts Warn of 'Emotional Toxicity' of Neoliberalism

Letter released Friday denounces profound damage caused by austerity

(Photo: 401(K) 2012/flickr/cc)

"This letter sounds the starting-bell for a broadly based campaign of organizations and professionals against the damage that neoliberalism is doing to the nation’s mental health," write mental health providers. (Photo: 401(K) 2012/flickr/cc)

Four hundred mental health experts signed an open letter released by The Guardian on Friday warning that Britain's austerity cuts, and neoliberalism more broadly, are profoundly damaging to quality of life and psychological well-being.

"The past five years have seen a radical shift in the kinds of issues generating distress in our clients: increasing inequality and outright poverty, families forced to move against their wishes, and, perhaps most important, benefits claimants (including disabled and ill people) and those seeking work being subjected to a quite new, intimidatory kind of disciplinary regime," warned the letter, whose signatories included Susie Orbach—a well-known psychotherapist and social critic.

The Alliance for Counseling and Psychotherapy played a lead role in organizing the statement, which was signed by counselors, psychotherapists, and other providers associated with a broad array of groups, including Psychotherapists and Counselors for Social Responsibility and Disabled People Against Cuts.

The letter specifically took aim at a series of austerity reforms included in the chancellor's latest budget, including the controversial "linkage of social security benefits to the receipt of 'state therapy.'"

But their warnings spoke to a theme with broad implications around the world, as societies from Greece to Jamaica suffer from the harrowing public health impacts of austerity.

"More generally, the wider reality of a society thrown completely off balance by the emotional toxicity of neoliberal thinking is affecting Britain in profound ways, the distressing effects of which are often most visible in the therapist’s consulting room," the letter states.

"This letter sounds the starting-bell for a broadly based campaign of organizations and professionals against the damage that neoliberalism is doing to the nation’s mental health."

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