Benefit cuts can have a devastating effect on mental health – just ask Sharon

A fear of brown envelopes is now familiar to anyone unlucky enough to be acquainted with Britain’s benefit system. For Sharon Linford, who has rapid cycling bipolar, as well as depression and borderline personality disorder, receiving a letter from the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) last month didn’t simply cause panic. It threw her into what she describes as a mental “spiral”.

The 48-year-old has had severe mental health problems since her early 20s when, as she was training to become an accountant, a nervous breakdown led her to spend three months in a psychiatric unit. Sharon’s made multiple suicide attempts over the years. Her wrists are covered in scars from self-harming.

“A single letter can have an impact on a person like Sharon,” her husband, Tony, says from their home just outside Great Yarmouth. “Whenever we see a brown envelope, my pulse literally quickens.”

For this week’s ‘Hardworking Britain’, I argued the time has come for an honest conversation about suicide, mental health, and benefit cuts. Read the full column here.

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