Capitalism and mental health

Our mental health, like our physical health, is a thing to cherish and keep well if we can manage it. If we have basic needs fulfilled, time for family, leisure and activity – then we are far more likely to enjoy life and do well by ourselves and our community. Poor mental health can affect everyone, but it disproportionately affects working class people without basic needs fully met.

We see many calls for us to look after our mental health, and reflections that we can and should do what we can to achieve good mental health. These are all true, as individuals we must look after our health, but what of the communities and society we live in? What place is there for our pursuit of good mental health in capitalism; an environment which is often utterly toxic and tragically harmful to our mental wellbeing?

When we work ourselves in thankless jobs we hate for pennies that don’t pay the bills it’s hard to flick on a smile and think happy thoughts – even in work which demands emotional labour. It’s hard to be content when every day we are confronted with overwhelming ideological messages to consume, to obey, to follow, to want, to have, to hoard, winner takes all. What place in our social world for good mental health? What place do we make in our pursuit of a better Scotland?

Young people increasingly see the effect our capitalist society is having on young people’s mental health: the anxiety from attending job centre appointments, the depression when you get sanctioned and have to live on the breadlines for weeks on end, the paranoia when you get another one of they dreaded Department for Work and Pensions brown envelopes through the door.

Additionally, we live in a culture which exploits young workers – low wages, zero hours contracts and zero rights in your workplace. Sharing a school with in many cases over a thousand pupils, near constant testing and entry requirements for further education continually increasing and college opportunities vanishing before our eyes.

It is difficult to function in a society that seems to continually put obstacles in your way and causes huge stress.

We propose that socialising our world to vastly reduce the poisonous harm done to us all is one thing we should focus on. As well as calls for us to look after ourselves as individuals I feel that we must also, and perhaps even more loudly, call for socialist change in society to allow every member of society to share the resources we have and need to do the best we can by our health and wellbeing. While we allow a world based on greed to sign 70-year death sentences for many in society we will make only hollow calls for good mental health.

Socialists can and should make good health, including good mental health, a core demand and goal of the type of society we envision. When we fight for a socialist Scotland we also fight for a Scotland where our mental life can flourish instead of floundering in the daily woes of failing capitalism.

This piece would not have been possible without the personal reflections and contributions from Stevie Anderson – Clydebank SSP and Matthew McDade – Ayrshire SSP.

Stevie AndersonMatthew McDade

Main Photo: by Hernán Piñera (Hug) [CC BY 2.0]