Happy Mental Health Awareness Month

People are chirping about mental health on the Internet, so as someone with ‘mental health issues,’ I thought I’d throw my opinion into the mud wrestling ring. Basically, all I have to say about mental health issues is: my mental health problems (and a lot of the mental health problems of those close to me) stem from to primary sources – systemic trauma and interpersonal abuse. The systemic trauma is a big one – that’s the stress caused by generational poverty, institutionalized racism and sexism, an unnavigable financial system, lack of affordable housing, stagnant wages, lack of medical care and lack of job opportunities. It’s remarkable what a stable housing environment, a good job that pays fair wages, and equitable access to social resources will do to relieve mental health problems. Living in poverty literally takes more brain power than being middle class! But, of course, as we all know, mental health problems impact middle class (and even upper class) people, which is why we have things like school shootings, incels and white supremacists. These people aren’t faced with traditional systemic trauma, so what’s their deal? Interpersonal abuse is also a huge factor in mental health problems – rape, domestic violence, bullying, etc… Abuse is pervasive throughout humanity. But I guess part of me is just disappointed that the systemic trauma is so frequently ignored in favor of focusing on interpersonal abuse. To me, those two things are interdependent – often times, economic factors contribute to being unable to escape interpersonal abuse. It’s clear that this newfound focus on mental issues is intended to appeal to white, middle class people because it ignores the basic economic issues that contribute to mental illness. Part of me wonders – if we focused on repairing the systemic traumas, how much mental illness would remain? Because these two factors are causes of mental illness, and that mental illness is reactive mental illness. But what about actually zeroing in on inherent mental illness? Reactive mental illness can often times be treated before the scars on the personality become permanent, but inherent mental illness is permanent.

I guess I just don’t find anything relatable about Prince Harry and Lady Gaga talking about their mental health problems. The fact of the matter is: if a community doesn’t have resources for its people, then it doesn’t have resources to solve systemic trauma, and therefore it doesn’t have resources to help with mental health problems. As someone with mental health problems, suicide awareness doesn’t do anything for me. The idea of random strangers ‘being there for me’ isn’t a deterrent for anyone who’s truly suicidal. I guess what I’m trying to say is: friendships are the most important deterrents from suicidal and depressive behavior. True friendships with vulnerability and depth. But that’s not something that you can train a society to offer – you kinda just have to do it on a person by person basis and hope that it spreads from there. Abuse will always be a part of human relationships, but I’d rather see infographics on ‘how to be a better best friend’ than another meme about gaslighting.

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