The Applause of Ruth Davidson Shows How We Get Mental Health Conversations Wrong

The Tories support policies which actively harm mental health. That must be part of the conversation.

Ruth Davidson, leader of the Scottish Tories, has won applause recently for speaking out about her struggles with mental health. Many people have commented on every news station there is how wonderful it is when public figures speak about their mental health. Yet, the BBC (and others) failed to once hold the Tories record on mental health to account.

In the UK, the Tories have largely dominated government and the one good thing about Scotland is that they thankfully, have managed to lessen some of that damage. Nevertheless, the Tories have still been responsible for an 8% cut in mental health services since 2010. People can’t get the support they seek. They speak up and get told to go away by the NHS. I’m glad Ruth Davidson got the support she needed but it is utterly galling for her to win plaudits for this revelation while her party supports cuts to the NHS.

“I’m glad Ruth Davidson got the support she needed but it is utterly galling for her to win plaudits for this revelation while her party supports cuts to the NHS”

Furthermore, the Tories (including Ruth Davidson) have supported policies which utterly crush those most vulnerable in society and those most likely to experience mental health issues. This includes stricter welfare sanctions (many with mental health conditions are believed to be fit to work), supporting austerity which has directly harmed queer services and even supporting the disgusting ‘rape clause’ that limited child tax credits to families with two children unless the mother could ‘prove’ the third child was conceived as a result of rape. It’s a policy widely condemned and seen as a violation of women who have already been through severe trauma. So much for solidarity, eh?

This demonstrates yet again how ‘time to talk’ has utterly failed. It’s not enough without resources and a substantial change in how we tackle mental health. Such change can never come if we openly applaud someone in an incredibly privileged position for speaking about her own mental health while not acknowledging the harm of the policies she supports. Talking gets us nowhere. People with mental health conditions have said all along that they need help and better support, but society refuses to commit. The applause for Ruth Davidson shows just how much we are letting down people who need support.

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