Look, I get it. A lot of people these days throw around the word depression like it’s going out of fashion (and a lot of them are depressed.) I also understand that, now more than ever, taxpayers are extremely picky about where their money goes to. After all, they’ll happily pay the checks of useless and outspoken politicians in the White House or in Downing Street, and that seems like a fair deal, but god forbid some skeeving reprobate with mental health problems applies for a benefit scheme to help them exist.
This society clearly has its priorities in good fucking order, and don’t you dare question it!
However, the increasing discrimination towards mental illness when it comes to benefits is an increasing worry of mine. Not in the least because I’m a victim of it.
The notion that the vast majority of people living on benefits are cruising on taxpayer money because they want to be is, frankly, disgusting. This sorry, nasty idea is about as ugly as the misbegotten, money-grubbing and dick-munching goblins who espouse it so passionately; people who are on benefits are all lazy, trashy people who want a free income for no work because it’s “easy” and they can “get away with it”.
We get it, Susan UpperTaxBracket PoshCarWithThreeKids, we get it. You have never actually applied for a benefit before, because if you had then you’d probably never have the nerve to say the process was easy.
But beyond that, most people applying for benefits and likely a good number of people on them… don’t want to be using benefits. You see, for a lot of us, benefits are a last resort when everything else in life hasn’t worked out. This is especially true because people like Susan NeverDepressed YearlyVacationsToEurope make a very big deal about how she thinks she’s been robbed by all of those nasty benefit fraudsters. All those devious, terrible disabled people, wanting money so they can experience at least half of a modern human existence.
The people in charge of making decisions are as much to blame as Susan. In the UK, in particular, a change was made a few years ago to Disability Living Allowance – a benefit designed to financially aid disabled individuals or the families of disabled individuals, as long as those individuals’ disabilities had a clear and negative impact on their average daily life that made the financial aid necessary. Like not being able to work due to a physical problem, for example, or requiring human care to perform basic tasks, and so on. The DLA was accessed by many people and it wasn’t an easy process to register to. Susan and others like her pretend that benefits are given out like free candy, but the reality is that benefits are highly scrutinised and they are long, arduous processes made intentionally difficult to dissuade people from applying for them.
In recent years the DLA was changed to PIP – Personal Independence Payment. While the UK government promised that the benefit was, in effect, the same and that those already on DLA wouldn’t be cut their benefits, the story quickly unfolded and these claims were anything but the truth. People who had been on DLA for years had their benefit taken away from them once review time came up. People with very clear cases, from spinal injuries literally preventing somebody from living a normal life and stopping them from working a job for example to mentally disabled with huge social anxiety and communication issues who required supervision or help, were being suddenly denied and turned away. The Department of Work and Pensions, DWP for short, takes months to respond to anything in an intentionally lengthy process so that you hopefully just give up hope if they deny you. Challenging a claim takes even longer, and the DWP often steadfastly refuse to change their minds (even when the case is cut and dry) until they’ve forced a claimant to deal with the tedium and distress of well over half a year of paperwork and intentionally delayed responses and arbitrary time limits. (You have 30 days to respond to anything that gets sent to you. They can take a couple of months and sit on their laurels for a bit. Fair, right?)
PIP is a fucking nightmare. It is a minefield of absolute bullshit on the part of the DWP, who will find any asinine reason to decline otherwise very valid claims and will then fight you all the way to a tribunal hearing, assuming you have the good grace and patience to fight it for that long. A lot of people don’t. People who needed those benefits to get some manner of normal life and help with their finances. People who were, beyond any shadow of a doubt, not being fraudulent in their claim and using a benefit as an excuse to not contribute to society or try to earn their own wage.
I’m currently fighting my own case with PIP right now and I won’t go into detail about that particularly, but I will say that the entire case has smacked of “You aren’t depressed enough” throughout the whole duration. It’s the nastiest kind of discrimination the human race is capable of when it comes to mental disabilities – which are already heavily stigmatised today – and that is the idea that you are not disabled enough for somebody’s standard. You’re not drooling at the mouth and stuttering enough, you can look them in the eye for too long, you’re not incontinent and waiting to be spoonfed, so you quite simply are not disabled enough. Mental disability is not always visible, yet it seems very clear to me that those working in the PIP department of the DWP will prioritise visible over not visible. An MP even went on record having said that people should discriminate against claimants with mental disabilities.
How can we, as a society, pretend that we’re making good progress and paving a way to a better society for future generations when we have mislabelled mental illness and mental disease for our own entertainment in books and in television and in games, and then made a taboo of the actual mental disabilities in reality? How can we pretend that we’re civilised when we have built an environment that is extremely hostile to a host of mental disabilities? The reason more people than ever are being diagnosed with ADHD or ASD or anxiety is because we have built a society and an environment that makes outcasts of these people while normalising being neurotypical. Even benefits are being told to make sure that our mental illnesses are visible, that we need to be a certain level of depressed and have a specific dosage or higher of anti-depressants in order to be considered “worthy” of benefits.
And that’s the system today. You have to be “this” depressed to be considered for benefits. Sure, you got into an accident that wasn’t your fault and your spine was shunted into some weird 90 degree angle and now your entire life is a distressing mess, but you can make a sandwich in theory so you really don’t need benefits. Financially stable middle class or wealthier people, people who don’t need benefits and have never needed benefits, who have no concept of what being on benefits feels like and how much of a chore it is to deal with and how stressful it is intentionally designed to be, have somehow convinced society that everybody on benefits is a leech. Entitled assholes have once again tried to pretend that the poor are stealing from them – “My taxes! My taxes!” they all screech aggressively as they shovel hundreds of thousands away in tax havens – and to what end? Time and again it has been proven that very few benefit claimants are fraudsters. The vast majority of people who turn to benefits are desperate and in need.
But god forbid we support those people, when instead we could continue to pay our governments to fund wars in other countries, dismantle a health system, roll back all kinds of rights from voting rights to workers rights to health rights, and keep big megacorporations in business so they can keep treating us like the cattle we are. That’s definitely what our taxes should be going towards, no complaints there.