North Texas Daily

The medicalization of depression harms marginalized communities

The medicalization of depression harms marginalized communities

The medicalization of depression harms marginalized communities
April 14
10:00 2022

Content Warning: This story contains language and content related to suicide and mental health issues. Viewer discretion is advised. 

As the awareness of mental health gains traction, we are now seeing a call to action by the government to address the needs of the public through increasingly medicalized means. While this might be seen as a step in the right direction, it also poses problems for those who carry marginalized identities.

The society we live in focuses on depression and other mental illnesses as something that can be cured internally. It is thought to be a personal problem, not a societal one. While many people are at a higher likelihood of depression due to body chemistry, this ignores our society’s role in our mental health.

This focus on individualism is on par with Americans’ general feelings about the world at large. 

The United States’ belief system rejects collectivism, thus believing people’s ability to succeed or fail is placed on the person despite whatever forms of oppression they might face. The lack of responsibility for society’s influence on a person’s life can also be found in how we acknowledge and treat mental illness. 

Constantly pointing at the individual rather than the systemic and social barriers they face is founded on white ideology and American exceptionalism. Thus, those it affects the most are marginalized communities such as people of color and the LGBTQ+ community. 

In 2020, more than half of transgender and nonbinary youth had considered suicide, according to The Trevor Project, an organization focused on suicide prevention related to the LGBTQ+ community. At the same time, higher reports of sadness, hopelessness and worthlessness are found in Black adults compared to white adults.

There also appears to be a monetary factor. Studies have indicated that Black people living underneath the poverty line are twice as likely to report psychological distress relative to those who live above it.

Monetary stability is one of the first issues when approaching this topic. While everyone has taken a hit due to the pandemic, we must remember that underneath the capitalistic framework that this county operates from, minorities are affected the most. 

Lack of money directly correlates to a lack of resources, whether it be healthy food, adequate housing or even schooling.

Black individuals who graduated college are at a lower risk for depression, according to a study by Mental Health America. This indicates that the more privileges afforded, the less likely they are prone to societal depression. 

Besides money, it is also essential to take into account the amount of discrimination these groups face while navigating the world in comparison to their white cisgender and heterosexual counterparts. For instance, the LGBTQ+ community faces varying degrees of homophobia and transphobia, while Black and brown individuals might face racism and xenophobia. Furthermore, these levels of oppression only compound as you meet more intersections on the axis of your specific identity. 

The problem with the medicalization of social phenomena is that it refuses to reflect on how the culture could better serve its public. It maintains the systems of prejudice and discrimination in favor of creating profit. 

The global antidepressant market has skyrocketed since COVID-19 and is projected to grow to $18.29 billion by 2027. For many, these drugs help them continue to work and function in a society that ultimately prizes productivity over anything else. 

That being said, there is nothing wrong with pharmaceuticals to manage illnesses. It can be a demonstration of self-care and even be necessary. 

However, the problem lies when we hyperfocus on these drugs as the only solution. It is time we deconstruct the notion that all of our sufferings come from within and are only a product of who we are.

Perhaps the larger picture brings us back to the nature vs. nurture debate. The more nuanced answer is that it’s probably both.

Featured Illustration By Miranda Thomas

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Lake Smith

Lake Smith

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