By Meera Eragoda, editor-in-chief
One on three Canadians are likely to suffer from a mental illness during their lifetime. In 2020, before the pandemic, The Tyee reported a third of Canadians had been diagnosed with anxiety. Besides, a third had been prescribed antidepressants. Since the pandemic, Radio Canada reported 54% of Canadians believe their mental health has deteriorated. Given the magnitude of the problem, when do we recognize that it is not an individual problem but a systemic problem?
There are several reasons Why your depression and anxiety may not just be your problem. As mental health care provider Madeleine Ritts writes for Jacobin, declining sanity is the inevitable result of an exploitative capitalist system. Case in point, a 2022 report released by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change found that climate change negatively affects mental health, with impacts felt disproportionately based on intersecting vulnerabilities, such as race and class.
If you can’t afford to rent or buy food or live or barely make ends meet, doesn’t it make sense that you feel anxious and depressed? If there’s a war in your country or you’re being targeted by state forces, doesn’t it make sense that you’re anxious and depressed? If you’re going through climate disaster after climate disaster, doesn’t it make sense that you’re anxious and depressed? Instead of selling us the idea that we need therapy or that we need medicine, maybe the real solution is to stop the war, to meet people’s basic needs, to meet multiple ismsand to ensure that we all have a world to live in?
The cycles of extraction and oppression of capitalism and colonialism send us rolling down on the edge of the cliff climate destructionwhile we’re told there’s something wrong we. We have to recognize what we are Told may not be the whole story and to hold the leaders of each institution accountable to make large scale changes.
Now, I’m not saying that mental illnesses aren’t real (they are), but perhaps the scale at which they proliferate is indicative of something beyond individual issues. I’m not saying we should stop advocating low-cost access to counselling, medication, and other supports. After all, we still have to live under advanced capitalism and its escalating series of crises – most recently, climate change and COVID-19 – who affect some communities disproportionately. But while we defend them, we must also recognize that a capitalist systemI demonize and reject anything that goes against its ability to extract and profit to create the illusion that this is not the problem.
The late Marxist blogger Mark Fisher Explain that capitalism creates a problem, compensates it on individuals and sells them the solution. Fisher suggested that capitalism causes instability and oppression that people cannot cope with. Accordingly, Fisher argued that capitalism tricks people into believing that there is something wrong with their neurochemistry. He added they can solve it by paying the drug companies and the therapists. Sinner Explain that because of this, “any question of systemic social causation is excludedUtah.” All this prevents the examination of wider systemic causes of the problem and maintains the status quo for those in power.
While we must continue to fight to reduce barriers to accessing mental health care, we must also fight the systems that cause such high levels of stress on our mental health. This fight starts in our communities, whether at home, at school or in our workplaces. As science fiction author Ursula LeGuin famous mentioned“WWe live in capitalism. His power seems inescapable. The divine right of kings too. All human power can be resisted and changed by human beings.