Being organic, social species gifts us reason, consciousness, the innate ability to learn languages, signs and symbols. But certain things are congenital to this gift also: That is a propensity for illness and ailment. I refrain, personally, from using the word “mental-illness” because it only seems to apply, as any psychiatrist will admit, to those who cannot continue ‘functioning properly or to their full potential’. For instance, a neurotic patient is not considered “ill” until neurosis hinders certain facets of their life: Agoraphobia is not an illness if you are constantly around large numbers of people. So the all-encompassing “mental-health” is felicitous. For the suffering of those who can hide should be acknowledged.
Our societies are rife with rising uncertainty. People fear how the other views them, amplified by the unremitting projection of life in a public arena. Models perform around us all the time; successful people flaunt their heights and promise those that “working hard” will foist them above the rest. However, reality is not that symbol and far more chaotic. And, so, unreached goals, shattered dreams or a particular version of it, triggers anxiety in many; the chaos, instability, within the web that is reality, turns an uncertain, anxious mind into an erratic box of loops. To stabilise reality, we find one loop to project the whole onto: Only if “so and so was so, life would improve for me”. Psychoanalysis christened this phenomenon “the object of desire” or “the object cause of desire”. And thus, neurosis is born. However, the anxiety a-prior is sufficed to inoculate ideas that hinder better mental-health, and so the person reaches to tether him/herself to psychiatrists, counsellors and psychologists etc.
Mental ailments can lurk in the lives across the strata of society: we saw many famous people – Truman Capote, Ernest Hemmingway, Sylvia Plath, Robin Williams – reach the point of suicide or alcoholism, ending their magical lives, at least it was told to us. It is certainly true, and always the case, that each individual mental instability should be examined within the context of the particular social group, partially shackled to state of things beyond their immediate circle. However, poverty brings forth a deeper propensity for mental-health issues, particularly depression and anxiety.
The mental health foundation published a study in 2016 outlining the strong links between poverty and mental health: “Poverty increases the risk of mental health problems and can be both a causal factor and a consequence of mental ill health.” The study then goes onto unravel the process of certain links and its future ramifications, even after the person(s) have been lifted themselves out of poverty in later life.
Childhood experiences and certain learned anxieties can persist, often sub-consciously, manifests in ways seemingly different to the original source of problem: For instance, the anxiety and low self-esteem a poor child feels in a supermarket can later in life manifest as a neurotic urge to save money, going to extremes that occupies the majority of one’s time.
Mental health is not stabilised with a mere “cheer-up” or “kind words” aimed to lift the esteem of the suffer. It is a serious and important facet of human-life that radiates in our current epoch more than ever. We need a better – more open attitude to discourse about mental health, as organic beings who can communicate through language, signs and symbols.