MENTAL HEALTH 2022: What’s happening?
Technology, science… humanity is making progress in many fronts. Paradoxically … over time mental health is getting worse. I see this EVERYWHERE, not only in my clinical practice of psychoanalysis:
Did you know that depression now affects 300 Million people and it is the LEADING cause of disability in the workplace worldwide? Paradoxically we can phone in sick with flu but not with depression.
Students are also suffering a mental health crisis: A BBC investigation has found that only during the first lockdown over March through to May there were at least 10 suspected student suicides at UK universities. In 2018 universities were told they had to address the mental health crisis on campus, but today, nearly half still hold no data or records on student suicides.
On top of that, our human brain is not evolved to deal with social media, to look at the screen all day an understand that the thing you see on the other end isn’t someone’s real life. Instagram for example, will use machine learning to predict who you are more likely to interact with. Its algorithms are always looking for the rabbit hole that you are most vulnerable to. And… you can’t protect yourself: you might be looking for “healthy eating” but these rabbit holes normalise the idea that you should be extremely thin and then is your fault if you are not. Without even realising you end up starving yourself to death just to gain more followers. Eating disorders are on the surge. Scary, isn’t it?
As a psychoanalyst, I push as much as I can, wherever I go, whenever I can to make mental health and wellbeing a global priority for all.
I wonder… what is happening? Why is it becoming more and more difficult to be… happy and mentally healthy? Clearly modern, western lifestyles undermine our mental health. Many factors are at play: Unhealthy diets, lack of physical exercise and disconnection from nature, loneliness, family break up, childhood neglect, the pressure of competition in schools/universities, the lack of working/life balance and of course… the pressure of social media. All these factors are, at the end of the day, lifestyle choices and social determinants. All in all, a mindset. Something we can influence and change. How? With Psychoanalysis.
Psychoanalysis is a tool to read reality. Without psychoanalysis we are blind to our unconscious processes (and most of our psychic processes are… unconscious!). With certain techniques (mindfulness, CBT…) we can manage the symptoms, but… we are not addressing the issue, the conflict which triggers the symptom will continue there.
Psychoanalysis is the tool which helps us see and understand things which are not obvious: why did I have that dream? Why can’t I get fit? Why am I scared of talking in public? Why… do I always end up in toxic relationships? With the interpretation of the psychoanalyst, with all that new information, we can transform our reality and make it better.
And last but not least, today, to celebrate the World Mental Health day, I would like to remind ourselves that we still as a society do not openly speak about mental health problems enough. Even more if we consider that one in four of us experiments a mental health problem. If we can talk about it, we can seek help earlier. And if we can talk about it as a general aspect of health, we can learn to look after ourselves as well as well as to support others who develop mental health issues.
Happy World Mental Health everyone!!