At the last meeting of Psychologists Against Austerity North East, we had a lively and thoughtful discussion about how we can continue to play a role in shaping a fairer and more psychologically healthy society. We recognised that the events of 2016 have shown there is a need for groups to stand up for fairness and equality, whilst listening to people’s concerns and finding ways to work together with people from different backgrounds and with diverse points of view.
The principals of community psychology, primarily about understanding people in their social context rather than seeing them purely as individuals, continues to be relevant. William Davies, the political scientist and author of The Happiness Industry, wrote an article in The New Statesman last month in which he cited the positive effects of anti-austerity campaigns as a method to support those most affected by regressive social policies, “turning private pain into protest”.
At a local level in the North East, we can continue to do this by getting out there and giving voice to those who are most in pain. Psychologists can be part of a movement to listen and to communicate about these issues that we hear in our clinical and academic work.
Over the past year we have started doing this in the North East; speaking up at meetings arranged by the local People’s Assembly, having a presence at Newcastle Mental Health Day and the Mental Health Awareness Week event in High Heaton. Let’s build on this in 2017 by continuing to listen, and by talking to more groups; to businesses, universities, schools and healthcare teams.
I look forward to seeing you on Wednesday when we will start to plan this work.
2016 has begun with a series of campaigns by those on the frontline of cuts. Psychologists Against Austerity have shown their support for the action taken by nurses on January 9th, demonstrating against the proposed axing of nursing bursaries. We also support the junior doctors in their strike action this week and their campaign for a safe and sustainable NHS. Psychologists Against Austerity will continue our campaign this year to ensure that the government is aware of the abusive and costly impact that social policies have upon people’s day-to-day lives.
Psychologists Against Austerity North East will be meeting for a second time on Wednesday January 20th at 6.30pm at Broadacre House, on Market Street in Newcastle. The main aim of the meeting will be to plan for our presence at Newcastle’s Mental Health Day which takes place on February 6th. Everyone interested in the impact of austerity on mental health is welcome to come along. Newcomers are very welcome. To find out more please e-mail PAANorthEast@gmail.com.
The inaugural regional meeting of PAA for the North East of England with be held on November 25th 2015, 6.30-8.00pm at Broadacre House, Market Street, Newcastle upon Tyne, NE1 6HQ.
Psychologists Against Austerity welcome everyone who are interested in the effects of austerity and social policies on mental health to attend our first North East regional meeting in November.
In line with the action that has been taken by PAA at a national level, this may involve joining regional demonstrations, writing to local media, and considering ways of undertaking research to develop a better understanding of the impact of austerity on the mental health of the North East of England.
We are also keen to make this a campaign that is not just ‘against’ certain social policies, but also a campaign that is ‘for’ a change in social policies. In the briefing document that you can find here links are made to the evidence of how austerity policies lead to shame, distrust, insecurity, loneliness and powerlessness. Following on from this, the document then focuses on ways to help foster trusting communities, to provide support and security to those who feel isolated and alone, and to give a voice to everyone that currently feels powerless in the face of recent changes.
Thanks to our friends at Launchpad and the Mental Health Collective, our first meeting will be held in Broadacre House on Market Street in Newcastle on a Wednesday 25th November 2015. We will start at 6.30pm and finish at 8.00pm.
Do get in touch if you have any other questions at PAANorthEast@gmail.com.
Dr Nick Hartley.
Newcastle upon Tyne.
Please stay tuned to the Twitter page @PAANorthEast for updates.