I make every effort to avoid writing about my political views here unless relevant. Despite clearly having a negative perception of feminism in its modern form, politically I am on the left – the traditional feminist or the feminist ally. In some cases, I cannot avoid discussing politics though. Brexit is one of them. On the 23rd of June, the United Kingdom voted to leave the largest single trading block in the world.
I am one of the 48% who voted to remain. So much has already been written about the negative impact about this vote to leave. We were warned about the potential impact on the economy, jobs, our pockets. 52% felt it was a risk worth taking for all of us and in the wake of the vote, racists felt their vote validated by a small majority of the population.
Brexit Means Brexit
What is done is done and now we have to make the most of it. One issue not yet discussed is the impact on people’s mental health. I think – once again – mental illness has been at the very bottom of the pile in such a major political discussion. The economic downturn that is already in full swing has the potential to light another ticking time bomb of mental illness. I recently read an article on The Conversation about economic performance, social mobility, social security and other economic issues in fuelling a country’s overall mental health.
The issue is complex (please read the article) but it seems the lower the social mobility, the lower the economic performance, the poorer the safety net of social security, the poor quality of jobs, has a significant effect on a country’s mental health. When we couple this with successive governments that have choked the life out of mental health services, this could potentially spell disaster.
Wiill This Affect Me And Those Around Me?
On reflection, I could be unaffected by this vote, but at present it feels unlikely. I am concerned for my girlfriend’s job and my family and friends who will undoubtedly be affected by this vote. And that is what is making me anxious – the knock on effects for relationships. I almost broke down in tears at David Cameron’s resignation speech – not because I like David Cameron (I don’t) but out of fear of what happens next. I am concerned about what happens to the people around me.
I have friends who work in academia and will now lose funding for their research projects. Members of my family and my partner’s family have jobs that rely on EU investment. The area where I live has received development money from the European Union and some people here are very concerned about what happens next. But this is more than just about me.
The Leave Vote, Economic Performance and Mental Illness
Male suicides registered a sharp increase in the UK and US following the financial crash of 2008. Here in the UK, and possibly elsewhere in the European Union, we could see another suicide spike. Those of us who understood the potential looming economic disaster following the 23rd June referendum were hit hard. I freely admit to going into a week long period of anxiety and sleeplessness. I felt it would only be a matter of time before I had to go back on the antidepressants, but it passed.
According to this article at The Guardian, therapists have already registered a spike in anxiety and more people seeking their services. The problem is that we haven’t even triggered Article 50 yet. The economy has shrunk – I hate to think what will happen when we do begin the process of leaving. Mental health referrals from GPs have also increased in the six weeks or so since this vote. Things are going to get worse for our mental health before they get better.
I don’t know what is going to happen next, and I fear for the mental health of those who feel trapped. EU nationals are worried about their status, even the young politically aware are concerned about their employment prospects and those of their parents according to this Financial Times article. Jobs are at risk, the economy is at risk. If 2008 and the recovery taught us anything, it’s that economic factors play an enormous role in mental health.
If this is you, my thoughts are with you. Mentalhealth.org.uk has put up a page dedicated to coping with Brexit anxiety.