Dear Mr Sheppard,
My name is Lauren. I’m 35 years old and thanks to a severe and enduring mental illness I had to quit medical school in my final year and have been unable to work ever since. I’ve spent the past 11 years on benefits and the past three years being involved with a collective advocacy project that aims to reduce the stigma surrounding my condition and campaign for universal treatment. Right now you need to meet really strict criteria to get treatment. I don’t. That’s the background. This is today.
I’m not sure if you’ve come across this BBC news story. “Benefit recipients ‘living in fear of cuts’, says report”. It’s based on a study done by Napier University.
The final paragraphs are very distressing.
“However, a spokesman for the Department of Work and Pensions said the reforms were about giving people peace of mind.
He added: “Reforms to welfare are designed to help people into work,giving more people the peace of mind and security that comes with a steady income . . .”
We all know that what the Tory party means by welfare reform is essentially taking more money away from the poorest and most vulnerable people in society. My thoughts on this are below. They are aimed at our “Evil Tory Overlords” but I wanted you to hear this too.
So depriving me of more money by doing crap like taxing DLA/PIP and making ESA even harder to get will magically make me better? Because I don’t see any other way the proposed welfare reforms will help get the likes of me into work unless mental health funding is drastically increased. I really wish welfare reform was magical enough to cure me as I want to be well enough to work. Damn it, I wish I’d never gotten ill in the first place. My 2002 starting salary would have been £27,000 and I would have had a much more secure future rather than this miserable existence. But I am ill and we all have to accept that. I’m not eligible for treatment because I don’t meet the criteria so I’m stuck on benefits. Current treatments are only 50% effective anyway and that’s after they’ve weeded those they reckon it won’t help. So here I am. Listening to your damaging rhetoric that triggers my condition and then my loved ones have to deal with the fallout. Huge chunks of my energy or will power is spent dealing with the fear and anxiety caused by welfare reform. I’m terrified and it’s getting worse. I honestly don’t know how much longer we can go on like this. It’s exhausting and it’s exacerbating my condition. I thought you wanted me back in work. That is your plan, right? So why, then, do you insist on saying and doing things that leave me feeling suicidal? Do you want me to get better or do you want me to kill myself? I know which one I think is more likely. If you really were aiming to give people like me “peace of mind” let me be the first to tell you, you missed.
I’m not sure what I want to accomplish by telling you, my SNP MP, this. It seemed important 30 minutes ago but now it feels pointless and I don’t know if that’s my “Evil Brain Pixies” talking or a brief glimpse into sanity. Or maybe I shouldn’t type emails at 3.46am when anxiety and the howling wind are keeping me awake.