In January 2013, for the second time in as many months, I tried to take my own life. I don’t think I wanted to die. I just needed to find an escape, and it seemed like the only route.
After the attempt, my mum took me to a psychiatric hospital near her house. I described to the nurse what happened, and she listened as I pled with her to section me; to take me away from harm. But there was nothing she could do.
Cuts to the NHS budget meant that only those at immediate and imminent risk of harm could be helped. The best that the nurse could offer me then was support from the crisis team, who would swing by my mum’s house at some point “in the next few days”. Afterwards, I walked back to the car convinced it was the end.
Mine is not a particularly unique or original story. I’m a working-class kid born in the early ‘90s, who came into social and political consciousness during the Blair years. I, like you, was promised that things would get better, over and over again.
And then in 2007, the financial crisis hit. The chaos that rolled out from that would come to shape all of our lives.
The austerity politics implemented as a response to that crisis have stained us. They’ve tainted our childhood and turned our early adulthood into an uphill battle. In the face of a relentless onslaught against our welfare state, our education and our healthcare, we’ve all been forced to grow up fast – into a world that seems set against us.
Like many of us, I’ve watched as my mum pushed herself to the brink, forced to battle through chronic, debilitating illness because her workplace assessment deemed her ‘fit to work’. I’ve watched my friends face drug addiction, poverty, homelessness and mental health crises as support was taken away from them. I’ve watched as not all of them made it. I’ve watched people get ripped from their communities, detained indefinitely, violently deported to places they’ve never known, where they face persecution, torture, violence, trafficking and death. I’ve watched our planet slowly heat up, with increasingly violent, destructive weather events decimating communities across the face of it. I’ve watched our streets fill with rough sleepers, our domestic violence shelters overflow, our A&E’s packed out with very sick children forced to sleep on the floor.
With the help of their Liberal Democrat coalition partners, successive Conservative governments have wreaked havoc on our communities. If they win this week’s general election, they will continue their onslaught.
Our country is on its knees. At least 130,000 people were killed by austerity policies. 1.6 million food bank parcels were given out in the last financial year, with the country now having more foodbanks than McDonald’s and Burger King outlets combined. 4.4 million are waiting for elective surgery, and 135,000 children will be homeless this Christmas.
It doesn’t have to be like this. On Thursday, I, along with everyone here at Huck, urge you to vote Labour. Each of us carries our own version of this story, and it’s your story too. We have one chance to change it for the better.
Vote Labour to save our welfare state. Hunger and homelessness don’t have to be a given – provided we stand up and act.
Vote Labour to save our NHS. For a health service that is fully funded, and free for all.
Vote Labour to save our planet. To thwart climate catastrophe with one million new green jobs.
Vote Labour for your community. We are better when we fight for each other. When we stand together and value our collective future over short-lived personal gain. We are better, when everyone has an opportunity to believe in hope.
On Thursday, vote Labour for all of us.
- Contributing Editor Ben Smoke, and the rest of the Huck Team x
In the UK the Samaritans can be contacted on 116 123. In the US, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is 1-800-273-8255.