Preventable harm: creating a mental health crisis

Journal of Public Mental Health
Mo Stewart


The purpose of this paper is to examine the preventable harm created by the adoption of austerity measures in 2010, added to the welfare reforms introduced in 2008 which, collectively, have negative implications for population mental health in the UK.

A critical reflection of published research papers and key policy documents in this area.

Negative mental health consequences of the combined impact of welfare reforms and austerity measures in the UK since 2010 are identified when relating to disability benefit assessments, and to the increased punitive conditionality applied to disability benefit claimants, as those in greatest need now live in fear of making a claim for financial support from the state or of losing benefits to which they are entitled.

Research limitations/implications
This paper identifies the creation of preventable harm by social policy reforms, commonly known as “welfare reforms”. The implications for social scientists are the disregard of academic peer-reviewed social policy research by policymakers, and the adoption of critically challenged policy-based research as used to justify political objectives.

Practical implications
The negative mental health impact of UK government social policy reforms has been identified and highlights the human consequences of the adoption of the biopsychosocial model of assessment.

Social implications
Reducing the numbers of sick and disabled people claiming long-term disability benefit has increased the numbers claiming unemployment benefit, with no notable increase in the numbers of disabled people in paid employment and with many service users in greatest need living in fear of the next enforced disability assessment.

This paper demonstrates the preventable harm created by the use of a flawed disability assessment model, together with the adoption of punitive conditionality and the increased suicides linked to UK welfare reforms which are influenced by American social policies.

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