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October 21, 2015

Life is a strange phenomenon, it creeps up on you, grabs you and takes you to its lair. If you’re lucky that lair is a comfortable and comforting place, a place full of company, security, warmth and the treasure of a myriad good memories. If you’re not so lucky the lair you find yourself in is very different. It is lonely, desperate, dark and cold. There is a common misconception that suggests that you can climb out of the lair you are in and inhabit any lair you choose. Sadly, this is not totally or even partially true.

Why not? Well, for a variety of reasons. Social climbing, scaling the mountain of society’s norms is both necessary and good, in fact, one can argue it is good for the mental health to strive for the higher slopes, the nicer lair if I am to continue this rapidly tiring metaphor. Hard work, education, discipline, the right peer group and the right decisions will give you the crampons you need to climb out of your lair and trek to a kinder, better one. But what if you can’t do that? What if society, life and luck have conspired against you to throw away the mountaineering kit, the key and the path?

I spoke to somebody just the other day who felt this was the case. He left school with a moderate but uninspiring array of qualifications, he finds himself unemployed and in a tiny rented flat. He suffers from depression and is totally blind. For him, life has snatched him away and forced him into a lair he feels he cannot escape from. He feels he can never get a mortgage, he feels work is impossible, largely down to discrimination, and if he did get a job the cut to tax credits would mean he would be in financial hot water.

What he needs is a break, is a glimmer of luck. He needs to live somewhere better, he needs a chance. I firmly believe that mental health problems are at least partly environmental, and can therefore be influenced by positive change. If you live in a tiny flat with limited means and amenities it feels as though your life has stopped, that this is it, cope until death. So many disabled people are terrified to take even casual work, because they fear a slash to their benefits, they fear not being able to pay the rent. To all those people who say upward mobility is easy, that living on benefits is a choice, I urge you to look around, count your limbs, your senses, your friends. Measure your living space, glance out at your car and check your bank balance. For some people life is tough, they find themselves in an inescapable lair where they will languish until they break.,

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