It is good that Corbyn has appointed a Shadow Minister for Mental Health, not least because the government is failing to provide adequate mental health services to meet current demand.
People in mental health crisis are routinely told there are no inpatient beds available. People who have been detained under section can find themselves transported in a cage in the back of an ambulance for hundreds of miles in pursuit of elusive inpatient beds. Neither government, NHS managers or commissioners take responsibility for this situation. There is a desperate need to re-open inpatient wards to stop this abusive practice.
However, the new Shadow Minster should also be concerned that we live in a society that has so many mental health problems. The charity Mind reckons that one in four people will experience a mental health problem each year. The NHS Confederation estimates the prevalence of common mental illness at over 17%. It is one of the main indications that all is not well with our world
It seems to me that a central cause of mental illness is our alienation from the means of production. Capitalism blunts and limits our ability to express ourselves through our work.
For Marx, work, the purposeful transformation of nature, was a defining aspect of being human. The interest most “mentally well" people take in cooking, gardening, music-making, sport and all number of craft activities are somewhat desperate attempts to seize whatever means of production are available to us for free self-expression outside "work-hours".
Under capitalism the basic human need for work is transformed into its opposite — drudgery, enforced idleness and exploitation. We do not experience the world as something that we are continually playing a part in creating.
The new Shadow Minister should campaign for adequate services for people in crisis, but also aim to tackle the bigger question — what is it about 21st century Britain that makes so many people depressed, anxious and psychotic? Socialists should have plenty to say about these issues.