According to new research published by the World Health Organisation , the growing gap between rich and poor has led to an increase in mental health problems such as depression and self-harm in countries including the UK and US. People are surrounded by stories about the rich and famous – lifestyles that are unattainable for the majority. These inequalities cause psychological and physical stress which leads to mental and physical health problems, the report concludes. Published earlier this month, Mental Health, Resilience and Inequalities by the WHO and the Mental Health Foundation revealed a strong link between income inequalities and poor mental health. Inequality is now known to be a constant trigger for the "fight or flight" response in human beings. Over time, the perpetual stress is thought to get "under the skin" and lead to permanently raised levels of stress hormones such as cortisol, as well as causing depression, higher blood pressure and other biological changes associated with stress and mental illness.
Dr Peter Byrne, a consultant psychiatrist in A&E and self-harm specialist, said: "It is much harder to be an adolescent these days. Young people are surrounded by an obscenely rich celebrity culture, and kids want to have those things too. Others I come across are excluded from society and cannot imagine living beyond 30. And two-thirds of the young people I see in A&E have been drinking alcohol. Their drinking is angry, morose, avoidant, and when this happens someone is much more likely to self-harm. If you look at the unhappiest populations in the world, it is those with the greatest income inequality."
Lynne Friedli, author of the report, said: "We have to face up to the fact that mental well-being depends on reducing the gap between rich and poor. A large divide leads to a mentally unhealthy society, and many associated social problems. In the UK in particular, we've failed to acknowledge this link, preferring instead to blame people's lifestyle choices."
Dr McCulloch , chief executive of the Mental Health Foundation , said: "We know that the UK has become a much more unequal place in the past few decades and we also know that people's mental health seems to have worsened at the same time. Now we're beginning to understand how these two trends might be linked, and how living with inequality can have very real effects on the mind and body."
Rufus May, a clinical psychologist in Bradford, said: "Demonised by the media, subject to scrutiny and evaluation in terms of their looks and appearance, and a school system that is increasingly prescriptive, young people don't have space to be creative or learn how to express how they feel. Self-harm is a release. It anaesthetises people from the pain of feeling wretched and unworthy. It helps us escape the pain of living in a competitive, self-conscious world where we rarely feel that we are making the grade. It can also be an expression of anger. This is one way to briefly be powerful and take back control. The scars of self-harm are like protest graffiti, and we need to listen to it. The answer is not more therapy. We need to teach young people how to communicate and care for themselves and one another."
SOYMB can only endorse the findings of those health professionals but we would suggest that if capitalism and its ideological trappings cause mental problems for the working class , then , of course , the obvious thing is to eliminate the cause - abolish capitalism and then establish a society that does not exploit .
The basic theme of Erich Fromm’s The Sane Society is that capitalism, because it encourages competition between individuals, pitting them against each other in a rat race for power, privilege and prestige, is a society that is incompatible with human nature. It is an “insane society”, a “sick society”.
Humans are social animals, and we need each other not only practically so as to collectively produce the material things we need to live but also psychologically—we need to feel part of a group, of a community. Any society which does not satisfy this psychological need, or which actively works to prevent it being satisfied, is incompatible with human nature.
Only a society based on co-operation and community is a sane society as one which properly meets the psychological needs of human beings for a sense of belonging; not just a sense of belonging but a state of actually belonging to a real community. That can only be socialism