Many of my gay chums often tell me they are not “into politics”. Personally, I’ve always often thought this was a bit odd because I’ve always thought of being gay and being political as going hand in hand.
We have long had things to fight for in the name of fairness and equality and pressure to put on those in power; the long struggle for equal marriage being just one example in recent history.
But politics, especially that coming straight out of Westminster, leaves many cold. And after the recession and all that nasty MP’s expenses business then is it any wonder?
Even if you despise all things political though, the rise of Jeremy Corbyn has been inescapable. And somewhere in the media storm and the thousands of words written about him, there is one announcement that is both very welcome and hugely long overdue.
In unveiling his Shadow Cabinet team, Corbyn named Luciana Berger as the very first Shadow Minister For Mental Health.
Here we need some context: a University of Cambridge study published in September 2014 found that 12 percent of lesbian women and almost 19 percent of bisexual women reported mental health problems, compared with six percent of heterosexual women. Also, 11 percent of gay men and 15 percent of bisexual men reported problems, compared to five percent of heterosexual men.
It’s pretty clear that mental health is an area of huge importance to the continued wellbeing of us all in the LGB community. However long waiting times for an initial hospital consultation and the postcode lottery that results in standards of care being entirely dependent on where you live continue to be a big problem.
And we all know that the Conservative policy of austerity has led to funding cuts to many organisations that were previously there to provide support and advice.
Let’s not get too ahead of ourselves here; the appointment of a Shadow Minister is in no way the miracle cure to solve the problem with the current state of care. And to be brutally realistic, we still have a government in power who plan on cutting public services yet more in the next few years. Not a great sign that an already difficult situation will get easier anytime soon. But at least for once we can say with certainty that a political party is actually taking it seriously rather than paying lip service with a brief paragraph in the manifesto at election time.
So yes, these are politicians we are talking about. And we’ve all learnt not to trust them right? So it could turn out to be a naïve hope but just maybe the appointment of Luciana Berger means that with the closer scrutiny a designated minister should bring, there just might be a grown up conversation about mental health care in this country.
Yes. I did say it was possibly a naïve hope.
But mental health matters. Given the statistics it is a topic that touches all of us in the gay community, if not personally then chances are through our closest friends and families.
And that is true, whether you are “into politics” or not.
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