Mental health and inequality.

1 in 4 people in the UK will experience a mental health problem each year, according to Mind.   How we cope with those problems is changing: incidents of suicide and self harm are increasing.  Rates of violent crime are also increasing.

Of course how these are reported will skew the figures from one year to the next; and rising awareness will also raise the figures.  But all things being equal, let’s assume the trend is upwards.  What could be causing it?

Is it because of cuts to those agencies that would otherwise be policing external factors affecting our mental health?  I’m thinking of Local Authority noise pollution and environmental protection teams, social workers, support workers in schools and housing, community policing, even support offered by employers.

Or is it more to do with technology that creates more of those external factors?  Online banking is incredibly frustrating, but add to that the fickleness of broadband, the hassle of customer support, the built-in obsolescence and dependency that drives our use of technology.

Then consider how much of that technology also undermines our ability to cope: the endless distractions, the corner of your brain that’s permanently listening out for the pings from your smartphone, the other corner of your brain that’s scanning for great Instagram posts.  Our addiction to dopamine hits seems to be inhibiting our ability to deal with a lot of modern life.

Or is it because the gap between rich and poor is now so great that it’s more and more noticeable, and the risks of failure that much more serious?

Most probably it’s a combination of all of those, and other factors.  Austerity, growing inequality, less regulation, more technology, greater competition, more serious implications of poverty and greater visibility of the lifestyles of the rich and famous – they’re all making us ill, and we’re less able to cope.

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Fear of ghosts.

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I know posting this image is unfair: it is so ubiquitous that it is entirely unsurprising.

But I couldn’t help but wonder if the woman is listening to Fear of ghosts by The Cure:

and the further I get
from the things that I care about
the less I care about
how much further away I get…

I am lost again
with everything gone
and more alone
than I have ever been

We all do it.  I do it.  Endlessly scrolling through irrelevant content, somehow missing the fact that it makes no difference.  Again, as I’ve posted before, the content is not important. We do it to avoid other people because we are petrified of having to interact with each other.

In the 2000s I used to hear all the time about “Anti-Social Behaviour”.  Now, despite being more connected than we have ever been – whether measured through transport modes and nodes, whether through telecommunication types and interactions, whether measured through the number of people we claim to know – we are also more alone than we have ever been.

That is not a paradox because of vanity: we measure our success in how important we are, how popular we are, how busy we are.  The further we get from the things that we care about, the less we care about how much further away we get.