It’s suffering time again

This is from an article about mental health apps and how mental illness is kept individualized, masking the societal factors that contribute to depression and stress with twee marketing and self-improvement solutions and I’m just gonna post a bunch of quotes because this truly captures the basis of if not every, then the vast majority of every instance of failing mental health I have ever experienced.

And it hits at why I get really frustrated when I engage in that casual and frequent acceptance that I just can’t do some basic thing because I’m so mentally wrecked from work–I can’t have any part of my life that my job, and a capitalist society more broadly, haven’t claimed from me–and it’s entirely beyond my control because my problem really is entirely caused by external, social factors that aren’t changing any time soon. There’s really nothing I can do–changing jobs in no way solves this problem–except start believing that it’s something wrong with me, and I should get over myself and go see a therapist like everyone else (or, you know, use one of these apps, as I am very much about to not have health insurance lol.) And this way of thinking about stress, burnout, depression, what have you, is just not the accepted framing, and I sound absolutely insufferable over here like “um excuse me, I’m not the one who is sick, oh ho ho, it is society who is sick, my comrade.”

Anyway, here’s someone talking about this far better than I:

We frequently speak of mental illness as “stigmatized,” but at least in young, urban, middle-class segments of American society, this no longer seems to be the case. Existential dread is now one among many inconveniences that you might as well digitally outsource, but the fact that we can now find an app for curing depression is just one symptom of a larger shift in the discourse around mental illness. The same consumerist culture that once shunned mention of depression now also seeks to cannibalize its language for use in advertising and media.

A ubiquitous truism about marketing holds that advertisements sell us a better and more beautiful version of ourselves—if you smoke Virginia Slims, you will be skinny; if you take Cialis, you will be able to play catch with your son—but increasingly advertising seems to appeal to a vision of well-off millennials as lazy, depressed homebodies, prone to ordering food online every night and binging Netflix for eight hours at a time. You order delivery from the restaurant across the street not because you’re awesome or want to be awesome, but precisely because you’re not, these ads tell us, and that’s just fine. If the end goal of Instagram and Candy Crush was always to numb us into contentment, isn’t it easier just to come out and say we will take away your pain

[A]s one meme has it, “we live in a society”: one that requires many of us to work inhumane hours without fair compensation or medical care; one that in the sparse gaps between those working hours bombards us with junk food, mass culture, demonstrably addictive social media, and the vague promise of incremental political reform; and one that, meanwhile, listens to our phone conversations, tracks our most minute movements, and recommends us purchase after purchase based on what we Google while on a bathroom breaks.

The formalism of clinical psychology, [clinical psychologist and philosopher David Smail] writes, leads too many people to view their well-being as a matter of medical diagnosis rather than as the result of externally imposed conditions—chief among them “the machinery of global capitalism,” which “has enormous effects on vast numbers of people in the world who are themselves in no position to see into its operation.”

[T]he navel-gazing recommended by apps like these has the potential to entice us away from larger questions about the structural forces that generate a great deal of our suffering. Similarly misleading is our recent societal tendency to see depression as a kind of cultural common denominator, the most “relatable” of all memes.

I Feel Better Now, by Jake Bittle for The Baffler, July 11, 2019

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