Sitting in the dole office, waiting to have a fortnightly meeting is enough to make anyone feel the blues. As a patronising clerk looks up from his/her desk, to ask if you have found a job yet despite having applied to hundreds unsuccessfully, is just another way of denting your confidence and psyche. Unsurprisingly, studies have proven that since the recession, a correlation between an increase of mental health problems and unemployment has emerged.
The Samaritans have described emotional health issues as the “hidden face” of the recession and at the end of 2008 warned that “the deepening financial and economic crises could lead to an increase in suicide rates nationwide as people face unemployment, mounting debt and housing insecurity.” And since then, a cycle of unemployment and the stigma from mental health issues has made it even more difficult for sufferers to get back into employment.
Research from the mental health organisation, Rethink shows that less than 40% of employers would consider employing someone with a mental health problem. Not surprisingly, people with mental health problems have the highest levels of unemployment among any disabled group – yet also have the highest ‘want to work’ rate. And out of the currently 2.57 million people unemployed over June to August 2011, 1 million young people were out of work as a result; the highest rate of unemployment in 17 years.
The Princes Trust reported on the affect of youth unemployment claiming that it is a “mental health hazard.” The Trust Macquarie Youth Index reveals how almost half of young people not in work (48 per cent) asserted that unemployment has caused problems including self harm, panic attacks and insomnia.
Around one in six young people (16 per cent) have found unemployment as stressful as a family breakdown, while more than one in ten (12 per cent) claim their joblessness has given them nightmares. Half of young people seeking work said visits to a job centre made them feel ashamed, and more than half said that job-searching had left them feeling disillusioned or desperate.
The youth unemployment epidemic has already seen an overt rise is poverty and crime exemplified by the recent London riots. Top economist David Blanchflower, of the Bank of England’s influential Monetary Policy Committee has stated that the increase has been directly influenced by David Cameron’s coalition to axe the £1billion Future Jobs Fund scheme, costing Britain £10million a day in lost productivity.
Mr Blanchflower said: “This is affecting the children and grandchildren of people everywhere – and it will get worse.”
“The evidence is if you don’t deal with youth unemployment it scars them – and us – forever. What if crime starts to rise and you see kids out on the street? Crime, homelessness, and muggings – all these are associated with it. Who caused this? Maybe it was politicians, bankers or middle-aged people who took out loans. But who is being hurt by this? The young. What did they have to do with it? Nothing. They are the most innocent of all.”
So predictably, an international study on welfare has found that young people in the UK are twice as likely as their counterparts in other rich countries to be so seriously ill or incapacitated that they cannot work and must live off disability benefits. Among 20- to 34- year-olds, rates for disability payments are around 2% in most countries, but 4% in the UK.
It is likely that the figures have decreased since then, as the coalition conveniently made it so that from end of January this year, people could no longer make new claims for Incapacity Benefits and instead claimants could only obtain Employment and Support Allowance. And if being unemployed isn’t enough, attempting to claim Incapacity benefits in the first place has already proved to be “extremely degrading and humiliating“.
It’s no doubt that with unemployment come the stresses of poverty, homelessness and mental vulnerability. And even though we have plenty of dystopian fictions to prepare us to avoid “Who controls the past,’ […] ‘controls the future,” Britain’s youths are set up to have bleak prospects.