The Point
Last updated: 27 June 2022. sky thinking for an open and diverse left

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Consequences of Capitalism: creating mental health issues for millions


Every day there are more reports in Britain's newspapers about the growing mental health crisis. There is little written about its fundamental cause.

Which is: the extreme material insecurity that affects more and more people.

Food is the most basic human need of all. After that, comes shelter/housing.

More and more people in Britain cannot afford to eat. The number of people needing help from food banks has risen by 7% in the last 12 month period alone. Between 2010 – 2016, the number of people reliant on food parcels has risen from 41 000, to more than 1 million.

Britain's largest food bank provider, the Trussell Trust, says that the 2016 – 2017 rise in numbers of food bank users is in great part a direct consequence of the chaotic new Universal Credit system of administering social security benefits, introduced by the Tory Westminster government: this system succeeds (a) in instituting lengthy benefit payments delays, and (b) in bringing about radical benefits cuts (always a vote-winner with Tory party supporters). 

In a report in today's papers, we find that there are more millionaires in Britain than in any other European country. The Malthusian paradigm (which it has long been popular to discredit) does now appear to hold true in Britain: it can sometimes appear that there is indeed only so much wealth that can be distributed, and as the rich get hugely richer in Britain, the poor become correspondingly poorer and more numerous - in order, one is tempted to conclude, to finance the rich.

I'm no psychologist - but even so, I'm fairly sure that fear of gradual starvation can lead to extreme mental health problems.

But fear of hunger is not all that Britain's poor have to contend with: fear of homelessness (with shelter - ie, a home - being the second most basic human need) continues to rise in Britain, where many people - even people working at two jobs - can no longer afford the astronomical rents being demanded by private landlords for renting a home. That such high rents can be demanded is only possible due to the grossly inadequate number of council housing units.

But even if poor people can afford to pay these mammoth rents for housing, tenants enjoy no security of tenure. Poor people almost always rent their homes from private landlords (for lack of Council housing), on a basis of a 6 month tenure that may thereafter be "rolled over", but which the landlord can discontinue (ie, serve the tenant with notice to quit their home) on a month by month basis.

The very real threat of imminent or likely homelessness that afflicts tens upon tens of thousands of people in Britain must surely pose a major threat to their mental health.

The Westminster establishment does not in fact so much as fail to address this problem, as simply refuse outright to concede such a problem exists, perhaps on the grounds that something like 30% of MPs are themselves private residential landlords, and residential and buy-to-let rentiers constitute one of the Tory party's major electoral constituencies.

"More must be done about Britain's mental health crisis!" cries the media.

"We shall address the mental health crisis" declaims the Tory government.


The Scottish administration is bucking the national British trend: in the last 7 years of the SNP-led Scottish administration, more than 34 000 social housing homes were built (19.5% more than during the preceding 7 years of the Labour-led administration).

And yet, between 2015 – 2016, according to the Scottish government, 28 000 people were assessed as homeless. In 2016, for example, 1 215 council houses were completed in Scotland.

It is plain to be seen that the Scottish administration is not building council houses in the numbers needed, or anything like the numbers needed (indeed, only a huge rise in tax-take could begin to fund such a project), and homelessness, or the potential threat of homelessness at short notice that private tenants suffer from, afflicts many thousands of people in Scotland.

The ever-present threat of hunger and homelessness that burdens so many people in Britain and Scotland today is surely the major cause of the "mental health crisis".

Underlying these material causes of the growing mental health issue is the fundamental cause of widespread poverty in general in both Britain and Scotland: namely, an economic system horribly skewed in favour of Capital – an economic system prejudiced against the worker. A symptom of this unbalanced economy is to be seen in the employment market, wherein the number of part-time, temporary and zero hours jobs (in relation to the number of full-time jobs that earn the worker a genuine living) continues to rise.

Attempts to address the problems of poverty (of which hunger and homelessness are the major symptoms) will not succeed unless the economy is re-structured; the pro-Capital bias eradicated, along with the rise in numbers of jobs that cannot earn the worker a living. Truly draconian legislation to this end is required, but discussion of such legislation requires a good deal more time than I can afford here and now.

Suffice it for now for me to say: Britain’s (and Scotland’s) widespread and growing economic imbalances, and the poverty these imbalances cause (of which the end result is what the papers like to call the “mental health crisis”), cannot be addressed until we get genuine socialist governments in power.   

We know what to do, but until we get a socialist government in Britain, and a socialist government in an independent Scotland, we cannot do what must be done.   

External links:

Bella Caledonia

Bright Green

George Monbiot

Green Left


The Jimmy Reid Foundation

Richard Dawkins

Scottish Left Review

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