We Must Increase Mental Health Awareness And Support for the Young

By David Hamblin / @UnionisedDavid / @GMBYoungMembers

There are those who may question why my Union -the GMB- has a stance on mental health. Aren’t unions solely concerned with workplace matters? With mental health issues affecting one in six of those who are in work Unions can certainly make the case that this is a workplace matter. When an employer is all too keen to try and show an employee with mental health issues the door it is often the Union Rep which slams it shut and ensures that facts, legislation, and some semblance of decency is held.

It is tempting to say that mental health is an illness like any other – yet it is fair to say that all too often it carries a stigma not attributed to other conditions. “Illness is neither an indulgence for which people have to pay, nor an offence for which they should be penalised” The words of Aneurin Bevan which should be repeated – with vehemence and great volume – at those who would seek to demonise those in society which suffer from mental ill health.  For there are those seek to divide the workplace by claiming that those suffering from Mental Health issues are fabricating conditions which in reality are ferociously debilitating. Such is how we treat those with ‘invisible’ illnesses.

Young workers face a bitter cocktail of low pay, poor conditions, and a pension age threshold which outstrips previously understood notions of what their working lives will entail. Under such circumstances is it any wonder that stress is rampant within Young Workers? Yet stress in and of itself is still not recognised for protection as a disability. Some may argue that the widespread nature of workplace stress precludes it from being classed as a disability – rather than seeing such prevalence a damning indictment of societal & workplace conditions.

There is another toll exerted on one sector of Young Workers: Trade Union activists. We are proud of the role we play within our Unions – the work which we do assists our brothers & sisters in the present and we seek to fashion by hand and brain a society which is worthy of the name for the future. I stand second to none in recognising the resolve and tangible gains which have been made for the labour movement as a whole by Young Trade Unionists.

Yet we must be mindful of the pressures that Young Trade Union activists endure: far flung conferences, frequent demonstrations, additional studies, late-night calls from members – all the while holding down a job often with the afore mentioned low pay. These are all factors which may contribute to stress. Let us ensure that the we embody the best practice we seek to establish elsewhere.

The GMB Young Members Network is steadfast in its support for Mental Health Awareness. We are resolute in our desire for improved access to Mental Health First Aid in the workplace. We are proud to stand as one with our brothers & sisters.

We fight to preserve the NHS.

We fight for our members in the workplace.

We fight for a society not of tolerance but of acceptance.


We fight as one – for what other way does a fight hold value?


David Hamblin is Chair of GMB Young Members

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