Via a Rethink Mental Illness campaign. The bit in italics is my addition. Yes, I did send it.
Dear Prime Minister,
Why do you hate mentally ill people like myself? Are you doing this to push many of us over the edge so that we won’t be such a burden on hard-working taxpayers? I used to think that sort of belief was paranoia but I’m not so sure any more. You’ll never know how terrifying that is. Believing your own government hates you so much that they’re actively reducing your support in order to encourage you to kill yourself. I guess this is what passes for Compassionate Conservativism.
I am writing to ask you to reverse the changes to Personal Independence Payment (PIP) regulations, which came into force last week.
I am deeply concerned that these changes undermine two recent Upper Tribunal rulings, which would have broadened the reach of PIP. This will prevent people with mental health conditions from accessing financial support to carry out daily tasks such as planning and making a journey – potentially risking isolation.
This is in stark contrast to your Government’s welcome commitment to delivering parity of esteem between physical and mental health.
Please will you reconsider, so that people with mental health conditions have access to the same vital financial support as those with physical disabilities?
I’m in the Work Related Activity Group of Employment and Support Allowance so I have to talk to a JobcentrePlus person at least every six months. At my last “interview” the JobcentrePlus employee, “P”, lied about where it was supposed to take place. He told me I was supposed to have attended the Jobcentre itself which is a lie because I got it changed to a telephone appointment and my MP’s assistant remembers me making the phone call to make that change. P is a liar.
P then tried to force me to take medication and therapy against my psychiatrist’s advice. My psychiatrist says I’m as well as can be expected and I’m not to rock the boat. Medication does not help me and there is no specific therapy available for my condition in my area. P thinks he knows better than my psychiatrist. P also gave me incorrect information about the Mental Health Information Station at the Walpole Hall. He told me they do therapy there. They don’t.
By the end of the “interview” he’d harrassed me so much that he’d pushed me into suicidal ideation. Instead of ascertaining where I was and who I was with (he knew I wasn’t at home) he sent the police round to my house. The police broke down my door leaving me out £150 for my insurance excess as the door was beyond repair. He did this to me despite my warning him just how fragile I am. I felt bullied and threatened and intimidated and I still feel that way. I freak out whenever I hear someone with a similar accent to his. The police were furious with him too. He wasted their time and by not giving them complete information he potentially jeopardised my life. He didn’t give them my mobile number, just my address and he knew I wasn’t there. The police only found me because my mobile number was on a crime I’d reported back in 2002 and I hadn’t changed it. If P had asked where I was and if I was alone he would have discovered that I was with my carer who is capable of dialling 999 if necessary. My carer chose to talk me down rather than needlessly escalating the situation. It would have worked if Jobcentre P hadn’t been so incompetent.
I’m terrified I’ll be sanctioned because I refuse to disobey my psychiatrist. I cannot comply with JobcentrePlus demands because my psychiatrist will not give me medication. What am I supposed to do? Buy random psychoactive substances on the street? I’m terrified. I honestly don’t know how much more of this I can take. I’m fighting suicidal thoughts every single day but the actions of the DWP/JobcentrePlus just make it worse. They claim they’re doing this to help us but they’re not. They’re making things worse. Much worse.
Stephen Crabb our new Welfare secretary replacing Iain Duncan Smith posted this on Facebook two days before his appointment. There was a glaring error in his post. He, like IDS and DWP in so many of their press releases, conflated the Work-Related Activity Group (WRAG) of Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) with people who are Fit For Work. In reality people in the WRAG are considered Unfit For Work but may be able to work in the future with support or treatment or something. Now whether this was deliberate in an attempt to make people agree with the scrapping of the WRAG, which means the loss of £30 a week for many disabled people, or plain ignorance I really don’t know. However I would expect a government minister to have done his homework before posting to Facebook. Unfortunately IDS and the DWP have set such a bad example that I think he’s doomed to repeat all their crappiness.
Anyway, I emailed him about his error. This is what I sent.
“Being in the Work Related Activity Group of ESA is not the same as being able to work. I’m astonished by how many people are unable to understand this. People in the WRAG are currently unable to work but may, with support and/or treatment, be able to work in the future.
Our Citizens Advice Bureau spells it out here unless you think their information is inaccurate. https://www.citizensadvice.org.uk/…/about-the-esa-groups/
I’m in the WRAG despite spending about 70% of my waking hours fighting thoughts of suicide. Right now I really want to through myself under a fast moving vehicle. This has been my life for as long as I can remember. Trying not to act on these urges is exhausting and combined with all my other symptoms makes me an incredibly volatile person in terms of affect and behaviour. Anyone who knows anything about me thinks the idea that I’m “fit for work” is ludicrous. I go from happy to suicidal in the time it takes someone else to frown. And a simple frown can be a trigger.
As for support, I barely get any. I get no treatment. I’m not eligible. Please stop spreading lies about people who are in the WRAG. Writing this email has been so difficult that I need to self harm again.”
He has since edited his post to correct the glaring error. Now if only they could correct that cut. I won’t be holding my breath.
Today I officially learnt that my DLA award letter is not accurate. The letter claims my award is valid until 2019 but the JobcentrePlus man just told that isn’t so. My award will last until I get my PIP letter which he says will be very soon because of the area I’m in. So instead of being able to relax because I survived another Work Focused Interview, I’m freaking out because any time now I’m going to have to go through yet another assessment and I probably won’t get this one. Nothing about my condition has changed, I’m still fucking nuts but because the Government are compassionless cockweasels I’m unlikely to get the small amount of extra that makes life just about bearable because they’ve changed the goalposts again. I don’t like living like this. I started out as a medical student! I want to be well but this shit just makes me worse and vastly increases the amount of baseline anxiety so my sleep is fucked which increases anxiety etc and then I either can’t do anything or have to self harm if I want any relief. Nothing else works at that point so please don’t try suggesting anything.
It’s shit like this that makes me question the intelligence of Tory and some other MPs. What they’re doing to people like me is completely counter-productive. Ok you could argue that a chunk of this is my fault because I should have appealed to get into the Support Group of ESA but the DWP’s scare tactics about possibly being found Fit For Work on appeal freaked me out too much and the stress of waiting over nine months for a decision was horrifying. This constant reassessment of people who aren’t going to get better because there’s no fucking treatment available for this condition in this part of the country is ridiculous! It costs them money, it costs me in terms of poorer health and money because of dressings and TCP and my loved ones end up stressed to hell. This is why my most commonly used tags on Delicious are tories-are-evil, tories-hate-the-poor-and-disabled, and tories-want-the-poor-and-disabled-to-die. Anyone who thinks doing this to me and people like me is a good idea is EVIL!!!
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.
David Cameron wants to stop benefits for obese, mentally ill and addicts who “refuse” treatment. (The mental health bit was brought up last year.) BBC article
The BBC wanted to hear from people who may be affected by this so I sent them my story.
15 years ago, whilst at medical school, I was diagnosed with depression. This was later amended to bipolar disorder in 2001 and then borderline personality disorder (BPD) in 2011. It can and would be considered treatable by the DWP but this only works if treatment is available on the NHS. I live in Edinburgh and treatment specific to BPD, dialectical behavioural therapy (DBT), is only available to four specific groups.
1. BPD, homeless and substance abuse problem.
2. BPD and an eating disorder.
3. BPD and a history of trauma.
4. BPD, female and at risk of reoffending.
The only way for me to get treatment is to make myself homeless and develop a drug problem or lie about eating habits or trauma or commit a crime.
I’m so desperate for treatment that I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about what crime I could commit that wouldn’t be too bad. Nobody should be in this situation but I am. I spend more than half my waking hours feeling suicidal. I don’t know how much longer I can carry on. I’m luckier than most. I know several other people with BPD who are in a much worse place. I at least have a really good support network.
I’m terrified the DWP will accuse me of refusing treatment because I don’t take psychiatric medication. I don’t take it because the benefit is negligible and the cost in terms of side effects is too great. The antipsychotics increase my appetite and the last time I was on them I ended up obese but still unable to work, due to mental illness not obesity but the weight certainly didn’t help. I’m not refusing treatment because I want to stay on benefits. Besides, treatment should work. I’ve been every single class of psychiatric medication bar one which I can’t safely take. None of them do anything and the other side effects are horrific. The DWP could easily accuse me of refusing treatment and stop my benefits. I’d be completely screwed then. I would end my life if that happened.
I’m part of a collective advocacy group who are campaigning to get more BPD-specific treatments available in NHS Lothian but it’s taking forever. I attend strategic planning meetings when I’m well enough but they cost a lot in terms of mental stress.
Punitive measures like these are counterproductive unless the outcome is then death of the claimant so you no longer have to support them. If that’s the intended outcome then it’s perfect.
Part of me wants to take my own life now because the stress of knowing this is coming is unbearable. I can’t carry on living like this.