Systemic pandemic: A New Mental Health Agenda

 

A systemic pandemic

New Mental Health agenda (please feel free to add to the questionnaire below, this is the intention. My contributions were just off the top of my head, and need a rethink anyway)

Current practices to treat mental health aren’t actually about solving the patient’s problem, because the problem is caused by the social/environmental (regardless of the susceptibility of different individuals to mental illness) and this is something which no ‘specialist’ practices, or medication, are designed to challenge. Instead, all treatment is designed to make you run more smoothly within the system that made you sick in the first place! After all, this is treatment not prevention. Thus, what practitioners should tell patients when they ask for some help is “we’re going to have to make you sicker in order for you to be OK”.

Have you ever filled in the ‘tick sheet’ handed over by doctors at the end of a mental health treatment session? Do you not find them frustrating and completely missing the source of the problems which it is asking you to mark on a level from 1 to 10 for intensity?

For example, I tick 7 out 10 for feelings of inferiority within certain social environments. Nothing asks me whether I find steep hierarchal societies impossible to live in, whether I think status anxiety is something nobody should be forced to endure by the mere nature of the system. The tick sheet may as well start with the sub-title “if you can’t beat them, join them” because this is the only real option it gives.

In another example, I tick 5 out of 10 for worrying that ‘something awful might happen’. This is such a vague question. These somethings could be so different that they require completely different approaches; I could be worried that ‘something awful might happen’ whilst I’m walking the streets alone at night, or I could be compiling all the different environmental threats that we face in my mind, and then worrying about all the awful events that might happen in the future – two completely different somethings that could be bothering me. Nothing attempts to help challenge the source of these worries; it only aims to help me to stop thinking about them altogether.

The 1 to 10 box for “I sometimes think that I would be better off dead” is intriguing. If you tick low, no problem. If you tick very high there’s liable to be some intervention” for your own safety”. But why do people feel that they’d be better off dead? Once one takes away the answer of bereavement, the other answers will nearly always have their roots in the social, economic and environmental – the problems that no current help for mental illness is prepared to challenge. The feelings of worthlessness are rooted in a society based on the rule of money/materialistic confidence, and ranking depending on how much of one of them, or both, you have. A wish to be dead because the future looks unbearable is also directly (with the exception of things more or less out of humanity’s control such as asteroid impacts – even earthquake disasters, if not actually now resulting from the extreme stress industrialisation is putting on the outer crust of the earth, are certainly intensified by grossly unequal structures, as the poor, overcrowded areas are hit hardest) linked to the direction humanity is being taken in by the rule of money. But even to mention a “fear of climate change” (for example) at a mental health session creates a twinge of paranoia in a place you have come to actually rid yourself of paranoia!

Despite this, mental illness treatment, as we stand, is still a very essential service – the very fact that it will be massively hurt via funding cuts by a government that is trying to force us to become even more ruled by money is abominable, and heading in the totally wrong direction for helping solve the mental illness epidemic. But the need to treat it is only one part of what is needed: the epidemic of mental illness cases needs to be prevented. Mental illness is now one of the biggest issues, if not the biggest issue, affecting citizens of capitalist nations, and is more of a problem in nations where the rule of money is greater.

People are not exaggerating when they say they are depressed, and it is certainly not a lie made up by people so that they claim “incapacity benefits”, as the right wing media (which is essentially the mainstream also) would have us believe. It is totally real; it is a systemic pandemic. We cannot let the right wing, first of all, exacerbate the issue as neoliberal (free market) capitalism attempts to seep into every part of our lives, then deny it even exists, with their attitude which always equates with 1980’s Conservative M.P Norman Tebbit’s answer to the unemployed – “Get on your bike!”. “Unhappy? Get a grip! Pull yourself together!” Mark Fisher is spot on in his Capitalist Realism book (it’s getting embarrassing how many times I refer to this book!) when he says how mental illness is a issue of the Left.

What I have tried to make below is a (very rough) new mental health questionnaire, which tries it’s best to look for prevention as well as cure.

 

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About John Ledger

A visual Artist, eternal meanderer and obsessive self-reflector by nature, who can’t help but try to interpret everything from within the tide of society. His works predominantly take the form of large scale ballpoint pen landscape drawings and map-making as social/psychological note-making. They are slowly-accumulating responses to crises inflicted upon the self in the perplexing, fearful, empty, and often personality-erasing human world.

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