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Shovel ready Projects and Mental Health

In New Zealand, the buzz phrase is ‘Shovel Ready Projects’.

When the NZ Canterbury area was devastated by massive earthquakes in 2010-11, the people of Christchurch saw this as an opportunity to rebuild an ecologically streamlined city. At the same time, in recognition of the emotional fall out, if its inhabitants needed talk therapy, the city paid for it.

In the U.K., Boris Johnson is focussing on new infrastructure projects. I would argue that ‘Shovel Ready’ cannot just mean road building and business as usual. What will we need in the U.K. to launch our social and emotional recovery?

First, we need to be able to catch those who will be floundering now that the pressure of lockdown has alleviated and space for anxiety and ongoing distresses is opening up. We must direct new funding towards existing helplines and online help, as well as public mental health services.

We will need to get staff who have left the mental health sector to return to community services. We need to prioritise training and attracting those already trained (and in the saturated private sector) to work in the NHS. This way talk therapy will become available for all, including six free fully funded sessions for anyone who might need it. The real spike may be as much as three years from now.

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