If we're worried about mental health, we need to take a serious look at our welfare system.
If we're worried about mental health, we need to take a serious look at our welfare system. DAN PELED

I've been on welfare; it made me feel like s---

WE ALL agree we're worried about mental health, yes?

And research shows there's a link between poverty and depression.

So why does the very thought of increasing Newstart cause such a divide?

I've spent time on Centrelink.

It's high on my list of things to never do again.

If it were a choice between the system and cuddling an echidna, well, to be honest I'd take the spiny hug.

An echidna walking along Yamba Breakwall. Photo Debrah Novak / The Daily Examiner
It would be more fun to hug one of these than go back on the system. Debrah Novak

Because at least there's some warmth to be found there.

The system, on the other hand, made me feel like s---.

MORE GYMPIE NEWS

And that was before you had the empowering joy of being turned down for job after job after job.

I eventually found escape at Hungry Jacks for $14 an hour.

It was a pittance and soul crushing; and still better than answering to a system seemingly designed to treat me like the scum of the earth and get me off the books.

Low income households and welfare recipients are struggling with the cost of living. Photo Kyle Zenchyson / Caboolture News
Low income. Kyle Zenchyson

Yes, part of it was my fault. I went to university and got an arts degree. I don't regret the choice but I do regret not understanding its price - the only thing that lowers your job prospects further, I believe, is a law degree from Bond.

Last year, 64 per cent of those on Youth Allowance and 55 per cent of those on Newstart were living below the poverty line. If we care about mental health as much as we claim, how is this still acceptable?