Neoliberalism & The Mental Illness Epidemic: Initial Thoughts

One topic that’s been particularly interesting to me since I started studying critical theory is the mental health system we have in the US, meaning methods of diagnosis and treatment for mental illness, products like medications or mood tracking apps, and the institutions and industries that provide these things. 

As a survivor of years of ineffective psychiatric treatments, this topic is unavoidably personal. When I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder at 16 I thought my fate was sealed, that I was too unstable to ever function normally in society. I was told it was a lifelong illness and I’d have to stay on toxic, life-threatening medications forever. I started taking lithium, and then an antipsychotic, and the list kept growing after that. Abilify, Adderall, Ativan, so on and so forth. I believed bipolar disorder was the primary fact of my identity—something I’d always have to live through and negotiate with. I thought I’d always have to rely on doctors to explain what was wrong with me, and pharmacists to refill my necessary prescriptions every month, lest I descend further into insanity. I was told 20% people with my condition would commit suicide, and I really believed I’d spend my life struggling with that possibility.

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