A Future with No Future: Depression, the Left, and the Politics of Mental Health By Mikkel Krause Frantzen on December 16, 2019, LA Review Books
The crisis embodied by depression thus becomes a symptom of a historical and capitalist crisis of futurity. It is a kind of structure of feeling, as Raymond Williams would say. Consequently, any cure to the problem of depression must take a collective, political form; instead of individualizing the problem of mental illness, it is imperative to start problematizing the individualization of mental illness. The call is for the left, for these specific reasons, to take seriously the question of illness and mental disorders. Dealing with depression — and other forms of psychopathology — is not only part of, but a condition of possibility for an emancipatory project today. Before we can throw bricks through windows, we need to be able to get out of bed.
We also have to wonder, why does there seem to be so much comfort in psychiatric diagnoses? Because there is comfort in the diagnosis of depression. So that’s why I feel so bad! Depression! A chemical imbalance in the brain! In this way, the diagnosis provides momentary meaning to meaningless misery. The suffering gets a name and a cause: a lack of serotonin. But this cause has causes which in the diagnostic system — and in the capitalist world as a whole — remain undiagnosed and untold.
Capitalism makes us feel bad and then, to add insult to injury, makes us feel bad about feeling bad.
Competition is precisely what capitalism is all about, and seeks to intensify, so that we are, simultaneously, alone in our suffering and fighting among each other’s suffering selves.
the current — social, political, economic, ecological — crisis is thus a mental health crisis as well. The perpetuum mobile of capitalism and its exhaustion of resources also pertains to mental resources. The economic and the psychological seem to have become indistinguishable from each other, as the double meaning of depression would also suggest.
Therapy as resistance, not as reactionary obedience to the given order. Therapy as a collective project, not an individual one. Therapy as the overcoming of alienation.
Of course, sometimes staying in bed can be a revolutionary act in itself, a kind of strike, the epitomization of an exhausted and negative No, I can’t in a world that revolves increasingly around an emphatic and positive Yes, I can.