Mental illness, like obesity is commonly referred as “on the rise.” It’s important for the diagnosis scholar to look at this critically.
This dossier by Mark Rice-Oxley in The Guardian explores this “global epidemic” and picks some holes in assumptions. Most of all, he brings social factors to the attention of the critical scholar.
Figures show that increases in mental illness are only slightly higher than the rise in global population since 1990. Further, there is evidence that destigmatisation has resulted in more people seeking help, rather than more people actually being ill. Figures also show that increase is firmly anchored in high-income countries.
What should we make of this?
We can reflect on the fact that diagnosis awareness is a privilege of prosperous countries, and also that destigmatisation doesn’t just make certain diagnoses more acceptable, it also makes them more visible, and puts a greater strain on the system. Both have the potential to turn the status quo into “epidemic” when this awareness and destigmatisation results in a whole new slew of diagnoseds.
And, as I have recently discussed on this page, it changes the terms of reference in conversations about emotions. Given, perhaps, the perception of epidemic that these factors have engendered, our youth (at least the ones in my lecture theatres) talk about their emotions in terms of mental illness, rather than in terms of emotions; stress, anxiety, depression replace worry, concern and sadness.
How do you talk about your emotions?