Anthony Bourdain’s suicide recently inspired a flurry of social media posts in my personal feeds regarding mental health. While most of them are concerned with the importance of seeking help and strengthening social bonds, some have stressed the importance of understanding the connection of depression and politics, an idea perhaps best articulated by Angelo Suarez in a Facebook post:
Nonetheless, while I totally agree with these points, I feel the need to express my own thoughts on the matter.
Mark Fisher’s awareness of the connection between his depression and capitalist realism did not stop him from offing himself. Even Lenin allegedly has been depressed. This tells us that mental health issues, while undoubtedly can be seen as effects of the mental mutations brought by the burdens of an alienated existence, are still issues that are concerned with how we understand the world vis-a-vis ourselves, or in short, are concerns that are primarily psychological, philosophical, or even spiritual by nature.
While it is indeed necessary to politicize mental health and resist the “personalization of stress”, it is also important to emphasize the expansion of our understanding of the world (not only in political terms but in existential, metaphysical terms as well), to utilize all the tools available for holistic healing and enablement, rather than simply treat mental health issues as symptoms of an all-powerful world-historical affliction. We need doctors, healers, and a politics of care among our midst to bring hope to those who are succumbing to the nihilistic despair and other personal demons that alienation in all its forms and manifestations has spread and normalized.
Someone has said it better than me: “‘raising’ consciousness isn’t just a matter of giving people information about the sources of their oppression, but of enabling them to feel personally and collectively powerful enough to challenge it.”
There is no vanguard, after all, without the rear, where we tend the sick and wounded. It is now more than ever that we need an empathetic and embracing sense of care for others, perhaps in the same level as the frustrations that fuel our vehemence, or else we wallow in debilitating, chronic discontent, or in a rage with a hand that only knows how to harm and not to heal, or, like Bourdain or Fisher, a resignation that failed to find the soul to fill the fist.