Mental health

Against “exam factories”!

Published on: Wed, 05/06/2019 - 09:02

Duncan Morrison (assistant NEU secretary, Lewisham, in personal capacity)

The National Education Union (NEU) is balloting its primary school members between 4 June and 12 July over whether to boycott high stakes summative testing (HSST) in primary schools.

What is HSST?

“Summative” means that the main purpose is to attach a score to what has been learnt, not to inform future learning and teaching. “High stakes” means that the school and school workers are measured by that score. The tests are used to compile league tables of schools, and those in turn play in to the marketisation of education. Testing is also big business: companies make a lot of money selling


Published on: Wed, 15/05/2019 - 11:46

Inequality and the super-ego

If my review of The Inner Level left readers thinking that it presented a narrow, economistic view of mental illness, then I apologise for writing a poor review. Thanks to Ian Townson for prompting me to write this correction.

Wilkinson and Pickett stress that their research is not a “theory of everything” and do not claim that income inequality is the only driver of mental distress. They describe a broad statistical trend within which our human drama plays out. There are outliers in the data where there must be powerful countervailing factors. For example, Italy

Why the working class needs libraries

Published on: Wed, 15/05/2019 - 10:40

Simon Nelson

Close to 650 libraries have closed in the UK since 2010. Some that remain “open” rely on volunteers, have no paid staff, and need grants and donations to run. In 2018 alone 130 libraries were shut down. More than 700 staff lost their jobs; the number of volunteers is now over 50,000.

The concept of the public library, free at the point of use, was pushed by The Free Library Movement, Victorian philanthropists aided by sections of the Chartist movement who worked for “improvement of the public”. The Libraries Act of 1850, put forward by Liberal MPs, and backed by a free libraries pioneer

Why students are depressed

Published on: Wed, 15/05/2019 - 07:54

Stuart Jordan

A recent survey of university students has found alarming rates of anxiety, self harm and substance abuse. Of the 38,000 students surveyed by the Insight Network, 87.7% said they struggle with anxiety, 50.3% have thoughts of self-harm, and 44.7% use alcohol or drugs to deal with their problems. Rates of mental distress are highest among second and third year students.

There are some reasons that we can rule out as being the cause of this mental distress.

Students are under pressure, but not any more so than students in other countries. In fact, British universities tend to be generous with


Published on: Wed, 08/05/2019 - 12:45

Let's be honest. Even if Labour had a good line on Brexit, a better leadership, a PLP not out to sabotage it, and all the rest, a majority Labour government will be hard to win. Unless other fronts are opened in the class struggle to break the barriers.

There is a long term decline in the Labour vote in: 1. Depressed de-industrialised small cities and towns with declining populations, especially those not in the orbit of big diverse cities. 2. The unfashionable working-class suburbs, owner occupied but by skilled or semi skilled working class people rather than the well-off. Or the dormitory


Published on: Wed, 01/05/2019 - 12:44

One of the people who joined us on our 18 April protest at the Israeli Embassy against Netanyahu’s plan to annex Area C on the West Bank queried some of the text on our leaflet.

She didn’t dispute that the “right of return” to Israel of all six million descendants of the 1947-9 refugees is neither workable nor just (since it could not happen without the conquest and displacement of the Israeli Jews). But, she said, we should uphold the “right of return” *to the West Bank*.

Part of the call for a real independent Palestinian state alongside Israel is a demand for that state to have sovereignty

Economic and ideological

Published on: Tue, 30/04/2019 - 16:23

Ian Townson

A response to the book review by Todd Hamer of 'The Inner Level' by Richard Wilkinson and Kate Pickett

To challenge the notion that economic inequalities causing status anxiety are the only drivers of mental health problems within capitalism I would like to use a personal example and then broaden that out to include a more generalised view of psychotic disorders that go beyond the more common mental health conditions of anxiety and depression.

From late teens onwards I suffered a mental health condition that left me for many years in a fearfully withdrawn state. Later out of curiosity when I

Inequality makes us mentally ill

Published on: Wed, 27/03/2019 - 10:17

Todd Hamer

One of the most ubiquitous products of advanced capitalism is mental illness. Despite our relative comfort, our god-like technology and our unprecedented freedom, something about the world we live in makes us miserable and anxious.

Depression, anxiety, addiction and psychotic disorders are on the rise at an alarming rate. The most comprehensive survey from the USA found that 46% of 18-75 year olds report a history of mental illness. World Health Organisation research puts the figure at 55%. Suicide is now the most common way to die for men aged 18-30. Depression is the leading cause of

LUL's Shameful Treatment of Assault Victim

Published on: Thu, 21/02/2019 - 13:57

The Employment Tribunal had some choice words for London Underground Ltd as it found the company to have unfairly dismissed Sharma Jagrup after he was assaulted at work. The Tribunal has ordered LUL to reinstate Sharma to his CSS2 post on the Central Line, with all his back pay and pension contributions restored.

LUL chose to sack Sharma just three months after he was assaulted by by a group of around twenty people, and while he was still dealing with the impact on his mental health. The company didn't bother with redeployment or alternative duties. We look forward to LUL 's next 'mental health awareness' campaign.

The judgment is a damning indictment not just of the managers involved but of LUL as a company. And it vindicates the unions and their activists and members who have been demanding for a long time that the company show proper care to victims of violence instead of the dismissive and victim-blaming response that we usually see.

In particular, LUL must urgently reconsider - and drop - its outrageous disciplinary action against Zahra Tirmazi.

Issues and Campaigns

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Alcohol is harmful. Dry January will not help

Published on: Wed, 20/02/2019 - 13:04

Todd Hamer

Alcohol [see Martin Thomas’s article in Solidarity 494, and Stephen Wood’s letter in 495] is the most harmful psychoactive substance we know in terms of overall mental and physical damage, addiction, crime and costs to the economy and communities.

It ranks just below heroin and cocaine for the physical and mental damage it does to the individual user. According to the WHO alcohol is a component cause of over 200 diseases. In 2012 3.3 million (5.9%) of deaths were related to alcohol use. Alcohol is responsible for 5.1% of the global burden of disease and injury.

Alcohol is a depressant that

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