#TrendingNews Blog Business Entertainment Environment Health Lifestyle News Analysis Opinion Science Sports Technology World News
Why Mental Health Is a Political Problem

Image: Sinn Fein/ Wikimedia

Talks around mental health-related problems are still quite restricted and stigmatized in this society. It is known that, if not treated properly and at the right time, mental health problems can take a turn for the worse and can be fatal.

Apart from the problem of negligence and unrecognition, what augments it, even more, is the utter privatisation and medicalization of mental health issues. These issues go hand-in-hand with economic crises and political and civil unrest and cannot be separated from the larger collective society. 

It is not to disregard the fact that mental health problems are unique to individuals and can arise from childhood traumas or other issues, but more often than not, the socio-political causation of such problems is not talked about or ignored altogether.

India, like the rest of the world, is experiencing political upheaval, which has different effects and responses from people depending on their position in the socioeconomic hierarchy.

However, continuous and extended exposure to political turmoils can result in long-term mental disorders, particularly among minorities who have limited access to healthcare, let alone therapy. Mental illnesses also form the basis for discrimination and segregation as to how one is treated and offered opportunities in a societal framework. 

And this becomes part of a vicious cycle. It is not difficult to understand that a person who has been involved in a violent political situation, such as a riot or a protest, or who has had their own homes and familiar places destroyed in strife, will find it extremely difficult to actively participate in society or do any productive work. They will find themselves robbed of their agencies at a loss of autonomy and deprived of employment and sympathy. It can even cost someone’s life

As any progress made in this field is very obscure and out of reach for the common people, they will find it difficult to navigate their illness, and any effort made on their part to return to a “normal” life will fall short. And this cycle continues.

 Lack of funding and inaction on the part of the government and other organizations also worsen the situation, as mental health problems are seldom seen as serious issues capable of causing significant damage.

Apart from ignorance and lack of expenditure, as long as mental health is treated as something separate from material conditions and seen as something individualistic, the situation will continue to be the same and deteriorate over time. Antidepressants and psychiatry based on genomics cannot cure poverty and alienation.

Capitalism is a major determinant of poor mental health, as diagnosis begins and ends with an individual ignoring the detrimental existing social, political, and economic determinants that dominate life in this society. All humans, irrespective of everything else, have some basic needs in life that ensure happiness and optimal mental health, and a denial of access to these resources can have severe repercussions mentally, leaving everything else aside.

A radical change is required in how we see mental illnesses, and it requires researchers to look beyond chemical imbalances in an individual’s brain and other biological explanations to search for a cure.

Depression, loneliness, anxiety, and agony are tightly woven around every layer of our society, and trying to “fix” individuals (who are fortunate enough to afford therapy) can never be enough.



      Race, caste, gender, and sexuality can form the basis of disparity in mental healthcare distribution. The consequences of mental illnesses among minorities are long-lasting, and they bear a disproportionately high burden of disabilities resulting from mental illnesses. 

The erstwhile state of Jammu and Kashmir bears a testament to this fact. The state of Jammu and Kashmir has been witnessing constant conflict and has been in a state of turmoil for decades now. No age group is immune from trauma, and everyone in the valley suffers from severe loss of hope and desolation.

As per a survey on mental health in Kashmir by Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF)/Doctors Without Borders in 2015, 45% of the valley’s adult population was found to be showing signs of mental disorders, and more than 90% of the population has witnessed at least one traumatic event in regards to political disruption in their lifetime. 


The anguish and the helplessness do not have a healthy channel, and the mental well-being of the people residing in the valley remains critically unaddressed.

Immigrants and refugees are also more vulnerable to facing complex challenges regarding their mental health than the local population. They suffer from depression, PTSD, and other anxiety disorders.

It is mainly due to trauma from witnessing civil unrest, wars, pre-migration experiences, and post-migration conditions. People who are subjected to stigmas and prejudices and live in an environment of constant oppression and hostility are less likely to reach out and seek help or be at the receiving end of psychotherapy at all.

Minorities and non-minorities both suffer from mental illnesses, but the difference remains in receiving and accessing help and treatment.



Contemporary capitalism, or neoliberalism, pervades competition and self-interest instead of cooperation, cohesion, and a sense of community. So, it is not surprising that we find a large part of our population living their lives in constant fear and anxiety: the fear of losing employment, stagnancy of wages, inhumane working conditions, the housing crisis, skyrocketing prices of commodities, and whatnot. 

Under this regime, one’s self-worth is measured by their economic output, and as such, everyone is terrified of falling behind or being deemed lazy and inadequate. The worker is alienated from other workers, from the means of production as well as the commodity that they produce; this in and of itself is a huge blow to the psyche. 

Financial strain is a dominant mediator between job loss and depression, and it has been found that unemployed people are more likely to be mentally ill, which can even lead to suicide ideation. 

Public spaces and places for relaxation are privatized and reserved for only those few who can afford the luxury. Materialistic entities dictate our social relations and close off our connection to the larger world, no matter how active one is on social media.

There should be a radical political change in how we approach mental health issues, and the focus should be shifted from symptoms to causes and their nuances at the intersectional level. The advice to lead a simple life and just be optimistic is facile and irrelevant as long as this massive discrepancy between basic human needs and the real-life conditions in which a person is made to survive exists. 

The challenge should be seen as a wider class struggle rather than something an individual is made to deal with by themselves. Oppression and discrimination overwhelmingly influence one’s mental well-being, no matter which corner of the world they belong in, and they cannot be separated from the larger society.


Edited by: Georgiana Madalina Jureschi

Share This Post On


Leave a comment

You need to login to leave a comment. Log-in