Mental Health is Political

by | Oct 4, 2022 | Social Barriers


Mental Health is Political- New York Times

The New York Times piece entitled ‘Mental Health is Political’ is a straightforward explanation for the rise in mental health conditions in recent years. In many cases, high rates of depressive disorder and anxiety, around 53.2 million cases and 76.2 million cases respectively, are linked to the global COVID-19 pandemic. The author, Danielle Carr, an assistant professor at the Institute for Society and Genetics at U.C.L.A., draws a distinction here, explaining that, in fact, this “epidemic” of mental illness does not just happen like a rare weather event, rather there are very real social and political problems causing an increase in mental health problems. These are commonly called determinants of health. Carr quotes mental health scholars published in The Lancet, who write “feelings of anxiety and sadness are entirely normal reactions to difficult circumstances, not symptoms of poor mental health.”

It is sometimes easier to blame the individual biology of a person rather than recognize the numerous interconnected factors that create the problem. It’s easier to medicate the individual than truly address the issues of poverty, political violence, and discrimination that explain the stress-diathesis model of mental illness. If we understand the underlying causes of many mental health problems within society, why don’t we take action? As Carr explains, it is because those in power are benefiting, often financially, from the status quo.

This article left me reflecting on the very real consequences of chronic stress on an individual’s mental health. Years and years of living in this unjust global society certainly have an impact. Carr outlines the solution; a world in which people have what we all seek: a home, access to nutritious food, safety, childcare, and other factors that many of us take for granted. We can no longer be satisfied by just addressing the symptoms, we must address the root cause of mental health.  We will continue to explore similar topics as The New York Times rolls out its series on mental health.