Mary Beard: Look to rising poverty to explain the mental health crisis

Mary Beard: Look to rising poverty to explain the mental health crisis

Speaking to The Big issue, the classicist said austerity is pushing people into illness


Famed scholar Mary Beard is clear on how we should tackle what she calls an “anxiety epidemic” in the UK.

Speaking to The Big Issue ahead of the return of pop culture show Front Row Late, she pointed out that spiralling mental illness figures must be considered alongside austerity and underfunded services in order to see the full picture.

The classicist asked if “you can talk about anxiety and mental health issues without thinking about all the other things people are suffering”.

She continued: “We have an anxiety epidemic and talk about those things very differently now, but it is not that anxiety didn’t exist.

“There is a rather basic, self-evident point, which is that people who haven’t got enough money to live on are anxious. I can remember what it is like if you put your card into the machine and it says, “Bugger off, you haven’t got any money.”

She also gently warned against placing all responsibility for the planet’s future on young environmental activists.

“It is very easy to think that the next generation will do it,” she said.” I remember one Cambridge meeting where we were choosing an early-career candidate and they all looked brilliant. The chair wisely said, don’t worry, we all looked like that once.

“There is a lot about the way this country is heading that worries me a great deal. But we are a collaborative species. Some of the things we are seeing at the moment I hope are a blip.”

Read the full interview in this week’s Big Issue, available from your local vendor or in the Big Issue shop.