Mental health in modernity

[T]he general underlying sentiment is that our modern mental health problems were born from time immemorial and have been nicely packaged in the DSM and elsewhere. Any other ‘cultural’ groups are doing something a bit weird so we have to ‘factor in’ some cultural adjustments to our diagnoses of mental illnesses.

Instead, I want it to be clear that what we call mental health in this modern era is new, and stems explicitly and directly from people’s attempts to cope with the massive changes to both social relationships and resource distribution (economics), and from having to do this without much guidance because we have not tried this all before in history (Smail, 2005). We are making this up as we go along.

The capitalist and bureaucratic systems we live within also mean that so much of life we cannot understand and will never understand because it is abstracted and generalized. And so we are all trying desperately to deal with life situations that not only have little history in which people might have learned some good solutions, but for which there are no real answers anyway except to change those larger systems, which is unlikely to happen soon.


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