SOC344 2018 Tut9 – Mon 12.30pm

There has been intense investment in mental health resources and treatments over the last few decades in Australia. This includes the establishment of initiatives such as the Black Dog Institute, the headspace National Youth Mental Health Initiative (a good program, which I helped evaluate), and recently a multi-sector initiative aimed at ‘Creating Mentally health Workplaces’.

Despite these efforts, however, the expenditure on and costs of mental health issues continue to rise, and the prevalence of anxiety issues in our society remains high. Anthony Jorm, at the University of Melbourne, estimates that around 15% of Australians suffer from an anxiety disorder, but many Australians don’t understand these issues, can’t recognise the symptoms, and tend to dismiss them as ‘everyday worries’. This serves both to downplay the severity and impact of anxiety issues on the national psyche, but also – importantly – obscure the social basis to such emotions. A similar story applies to the experience of loneliness. As Adrian Franklin finds, loneliness is endemic in Australia.

There are numerous sociological explanations behind ingrained, or rising, anxiety and loneliness in our society. Certain groups are at greater risk of loneliness than others – older men for example – but sociologists such as Anthony Giddens and Zigmund Bauman point out the atomising affect of late modernity, where human relations become more individualised, and we become less invested in keeping our groups and connections together. And we are not helped by the way we structure our modern lives. Work is increasingly temporary and fractious, sending us off to all sorts of places, to work all sorts of hours, with increasing precarity. Our cities continue to sprawl into suburban ‘exopolises’, lacking natural social centres within which people can connect and socialise. And our media changes, becoming supposedly more ‘social’, but with uncertain consequences in terms of the exact impact it has on our face-to-face interaction.

The exact alchemy of factors that entrench anxiety and loneliness in modern society is unclear. However, the need to examine these factors sociologically is paramount. Do we need more expenditure on mental health services? Or is this just a Band-Aid solution? Do we instead need to examine, recognise, and cost options for making deeper, structural changes to our social, urban and media environments that impact our sense of sociability and security, and our feelings of anxiety, isolation and loneliness?

According to Beyond Blue, it is estimated that in 1 year, 1 million Australian adults will experience depression and 2 million will experience anxiety; that 45% of Australians will experience mental health problem in their lifetime; that; and that 1 in 4 women and 1 in 6 men will experience depression.

However, anxiety, depression and sadness are only some of the difficult (or what I would call primary) emotions associated with mental illness. Those who experience it also have to deal with the stigma associated with mental illness, and with a range of secondary emotions associated – disgust, embarrassment, guilt and shame – associated with the experience of stigma. Erving Goffman described stigma as a discrepancy between a virtual and an actual social identity, where a person is “reduced in our minds from a whole and usual person to a tainted, discounted one.” Whether at work, home, school or in public, having to hide one’s condition – or suffer the indignity of being treated as a ‘tainted’ person – only compounds the difficult emotional experience of managing a mental illness.

Kathy Charmaz provides a critical sociological perspective to the problem, in arguing that our society sets up standards of normal health – a ‘core’ of healthy images and spaces – and expects people to either commit to a clear core (be consistently healthy) or accept a marginalized position outside of this (with an internalized, stigmatized, and shameful identity), but not to ‘pretend’ health or ‘exaggerate’ one’s illness, as those with mental illness are often suspect of doing. Gillian Bendelow notes that the great rise in pharmacological treatments over previous decades and that the use of anti-depressants is seen as the more socially conventional and acceptable approach to the ‘treatment’ of mental illness. Evidence of this can be seen in the fact that Australia now ranks second in the world in anti-depressant prescriptions.

Are more anti-depressants the solution? Davey and Chan (2012) challenge their effectiveness, and suggest that they should be increasingly used only in combination with psychotherapeutic approaches. However, this approach still individualises the problem, and does little to look at the social conditions and the stigma that compounds the experience of mental illness. Perhaps its time to move the focus away from the ‘core’ and towards the periphery, and do more to end the stigma associated with mental illness, anxiety and depression?

#S344UOW18 #Tut9 #Mon1230

Posted in SOC327 - Emotions Bodies and Society, UOW.

12 Comments on SOC344 2018 Tut9 – Mon 12.30pm

Liam Thomas said : Guest Report 5 months ago

I believe that our society in general has become too individualised. We seem to have a firm belief that the lifecourse of an individual is entirely determined through their own self-actualisation and agency, which enormously downplays the social components of our daily existence. It is imperative that we understand that we affect society and that it affects us in turn. Locating the causes of, and solutions to, anxiety, depression and sadness within the individual is an enormous misstep. Anti-depressants and overmedicalisation are not the solution. Clearly the answer lies in combating the lack of social cohesion and an emotionally supportive core within the areas that surround us. In order to help build a more sustained societal response to these issues of depression, sadness and anxiety, we need to build a more holistic, collective framework for the ways in which we live our lives, recognising that it is not only the responsibility for us to love and care for ourselves, but also the people around us. At the same time, it is also imperative that we begin far-reaching campaigns to inform and raise awareness of the surrounding social world as the locus of these issues, not the individual. Individuals need to be aware that they exist within social spaces and that they are not alone in their feelings and experiences. They must be made aware that they are so common that institutions have become blasé about it. Deep, sustained structural changes must be made to our social, urban and media environments in order to accomplish this. The barriers of stigma must be eradicated. The more people come to recognise that they all share experiences of these emotions on an everyday basis, the less of a stigma it will become, and the more enthusiasm there should be in dealing with the problem. #S344UOW18 #Tut8 #Mon1230

Christina Chhay said : Guest Report 5 months ago

Western society is predominantly focused on productivity and thus people seek 'quick fixes' when it comes to anything or anyone being stigmatised as less than 'normal.' Bendelow (2009) explores the rapid increase in focus attended to medicalisation for mental illnesses. Increased expenditure in the areas of mental health services and antidepressants only lead to 'band aid' solutions as they provide a façade to illustrate that individuals are 'normal' and can resume productivity. However, they do not address the deeper sociological and psychological causes, which should be focused on to prevent it happening altogether. As Bendelow mentions, treatment relies heavily on the biomedical model and biological causes which calls for increased medicalisation - only resulting in the introduction of dependence on drugs and more side effects. Less detail is paid to environmental stressors and the need for structural change that may contribute to anxiety, loneliness and depression. Sennett (2000) speaks of the change in the structure of institutions throughout history, how jobs are no longer stable and consist of smaller projects with different teams competing for the best outcome. The emergence of such a lifestyle promotes constant change and instability; moving from one place to another and not committing to a community. This exposes individuals to loneliness through the lack of relationships built with others because of the disconnection to their place of work and living. This highlights the need for structural changes to address the core issues that lay behind loneliness, anxiety and the resulting medicalisation.

Amelia Collier said : Guest Report 5 months ago

Mental health issues have been a massive issue within our society for decades and as mentioned there is no sign that this prevalence is decreasing. I believe the most important thing we can do for those suffering from mental health problems is to further educate our society about mental health. This includes creating programs dedicated to spreading the word about mental health and teaching kids at a young age. This would not only help break down the stigma related to mental health issues but it would also help individuals perhaps realise their own symptoms are more than ‘feeling a bit down’. If we educate people, we have the potential to reach out to a larger portion of those dealing with these issues and consequently help them overcome problems such as depression and anxiety. As for the use for antidepressants, I strongly believe that in severe cases they are very much needed alongside the use of psychologists to help get people back on track. However, I somewhat agree with what Davey and Chan (2012) say as I find that nowadays with mental health being of such high prevalence, doctors are subject to giving medication to almost all patients who come in, and I personally believe that antidepressants should be a last resort option for those with severe cases. #S344UOW18 #Tut10 #Mon1230

Samantha Mackay said : Guest Report 5 months ago

It is clear as Sennett argues we have been normalised to capitalist consumption thus we ultimately have become ‘disorientated’ within our social relations. Hence, the lack of visibility of those suffering mental illness has established the need for those suffering to ‘justify’ the severity of their illness as society largely accuses such individuals for ‘pretending’. Despite the increase in awareness surrounding mental illness and the available assistance from organisations such as Beyond Blue and Headspace. I find that in response to mental illness individuals must align with ‘feeling rules’ that one must display that they are ‘fine’ or ‘prove’ that they are in fact severely suffering mental illness. There is no in-between and regardless such individuals are subject to stigma. This also increases how individuals feel the need to emotion regulate by ‘surface acting’ by suppressing emotions if they feel they aren’t ‘severe’ enough to deem assistance or to avoid stigma. The scope of stigma has increased with our reliance on technology. It is evident that individuals can now constantly watch, view, monitor peoples personal lives through social media, hence, increasing the feelings of alienation and loneliness as individuals are never ‘free’ from judgment either on and off line. Sennett delves into how the very structure of our fast paced cities and modern lives are establishing “superficial relations”. Thus, socially we demand ‘quick fixes’ to continue to go about our busy lives, hence, I see that the dependence on prescription drugs as a response to mental illness is seen as an ‘quick solution’ to a wider social issue. While, I understand that for many suffering mental illnesses that prescription drugs are in fact the only solution for recovery. However, societal ignorance of how our structural conditions are impacting emotion regulation is continuing to create such conditions. Hence, as Bendelow (2009, p.86) argues our responses to mental illness has always maintained an “uneasy balance between care and control” as socially we are abusing the use of ‘easy, quick’ use of prescription drugs while ignoring the adverse side affects of drug abuse. Hence, we need to stop individualising the occurrence of mental illness; as such tactics are essentially Band-Aid solutions. #S344UOW18 #Tut9 #Mon1230

Chloe Aubin said : Guest Report 5 months ago

Depression in Australia has become so prevalent that we have come a long way in understanding the condition, and believing in the value of professional help. While Australians understand and recognise depression, a national survey on mental health literacy showed that Australians are far less likely to recognise symptoms of anxiety. Australians are also less likely to see a person with an anxiety disorder as warranting professional help. As well as this, loneliness is a serious and growing problem in Australia. According to a survey, one third of both Australian men and women in the prime of their life have experienced loneliness as a serious problem at times. Increasing loneliness can lead to conditions such as depression and anxiety, which need to be addressed professionally. With the rates of depression rising, it is important to acknowledge the treatments and their effectiveness. Australia, has one of the highest rates of antidepressant use in the world and is continuing to increase. However, these medications effectiveness is reducing, and doctors have become too reliant on them. In an article by ‘The Conversation’ suggests that antidepressants should be a part of ta treatment plan, and not be the treatment plan alone. While comprising a large portion of the Australian population, people with depression, anxiety and other mental illness still suffer from a harsh social stigma and marginalisation, as suggested in an article by Charmaz (2008). Even though, as a whole, Australians understand and recognise some mental illnesses, there needs to be more education about these illnesses to reduce the stigma and marginalisation, as well as new treatment plans. #S344UOW18 #Tut 9 #MON1230

Kelsea Latham said : Guest Report 5 months ago

It is paramount to continue exploring the sociological explanations behind the prevalence and growth of anxiety and loneliness in modern society. Social structures, such as the modern city, thrive off of individuals becoming disconnected and less invested in community relationships. As well as this, so called 'social' media sites such as Facebook and Instagram are creating spheres of interaction that are can be considered a 'lower quality' to that of face-to-face social encounters. In order to achieve success in reducing mental health issues in our modern world, we must examine these structures and factors as sociological, and attempt to make sociological changes in our practices, cities and interactions with one another. Sennett (2000) explores how people consider cities to have the potential to make us more complex human beings, but outlines that urban life makes it harder to have meaningful interactions with each other. Also, Sennett (2000) argues that capitalism has been the cause for change in city designs and urban cultural values. We can see this shift as cities are now hubs for shopping/consumerism, fast food and office buildings rather than spaces that encourage individuals to interact with others and the landscape its self. This can be analysed to explain the rise in loneliness, as where we live and spend majority of our time is designed to not harbour meaningful interactions. It is from this that we should consider the expenditure on and the costs associated with mental health issues to be indicative of a larger issue to do with society and the cities we live in. Should we be focusing on altering the way we interact, the way we move about a city and the ways in which we deal with mental health as a purely social issue? Perpetuating individualistic emotional management methods may only lead to a growing individual focused culture in which we live as social beings, and as a result a shift in approaches to mental health issues may be needed. #S344UOW18 #Tut9 #Mon1230

Samantha McAuley said : Guest Report 5 months ago

The prevalence of health issues such as anxiety, depression and others is a scary thought. Even with all the mental health resources and treatments out there, why is it still so prominent? I think it does have a lot to do with the fact people aren’t recognising symptoms and are down playing their emotions. I thought an interesting point came from Franklin (2012, pg 13) where he states even if people are socially supported e.g friendly neighbours, tight friendships, individuals can still feel lonely. This was interesting because I think a lot of people would go ‘I shouldn’t have any anxiety or mental health problems because I have good social connections and other positive things in life’. But I think this could be affecting the down-playing of emotions and also brings up themes from Hochschild (1979) with acting and feeling rules, of how one should be happy so they will act happy. I also believe social media affects individual’s connection with others due to less face to face interactions, but also people framing their profiles in particular ways which can highlight a very individualistic approach to life even when social media is supposedly meant to make people more social. I think an approach which is more focused on changing society in a deeper and more structural sense is what is needed if we want to alter perspectives to be more positive. By also changing these social structures, a more accepting approach may also come from this, which would help with the stigma that is associated with mental health (partially from the lack of understanding for what anxiety etc really is). I think an understanding that not everyone can be ‘healthy and normal’ during all stages of life needs to be identified otherwise stigma will always be linked to mental health conditions. I think the use of anti-depressants and psychotherapeutic approaches all individualise the problem however the issue would be less stigmatised if society could be part of the solution, and realise that there are many others feeling the same way who hide it because of the association to negative stigmas. #S344UOW18 #Tut9 #1230

Teagan Starr - *EDIT* said : Guest Report 5 months ago

Despite increasing investment and awareness of mental illness, expenditure on mental health prevention is described as modest in relation to the scale of the problem with few existing organisations are only resourced to address minor to mild cases of mental illness in the community, leading to an increase in presentation of sever cases of mental illness to emergency departments. Public endorsement of biogenetic approaches to mental health problems is said to reduce the stigma of mental illness, however these optimistic assumptions are very wrong. Seeing those that suffer from mental illness as suffering from a biological disorder encourages that person to be seen as having an unpredictable and incurable illness that results in ‘Othering’. It is clear those pharmacological approaches to the treatment of mental illness using anti-depressants are viewed as the more social conventional approach (Bendelow 2009). However it also individualises the issue and ignores the role social conditions. The role of urban design on the mental health of city dwellers is gaining increasing recognition. However, the emotional impact of superficial, disengaged cities (Sennet 2000) goes unrecognised. Instead of treating the symptoms of mental illness, we would do well to address the social conditions of our cities as the root cause.

Teagan Starr said : Guest Report 5 months ago

Despite increasing investment and awareness of mental illness, expenditure on mental health prevention is described as modest in relation to the scale of the problem with few existing organisations are only resourced to address minor to mild cases of mental illness in the community, leading to an increase in presentation of sever cases of mental illness to emergency departments: . Public endorsement of biogenetic approaches to mental health problems is said to reduce the stigma of mental illness, however these optimistic assumptions are very wrong. Seeing those that suffer from mental illness as suffering from a biological disorder encourages that person to be seen as having an unpredictable and incurable illness that results in ‘Othering’ . It is clear those pharmacological approaches to the treatment of mental illness using anti-depressants are viewed as the more social conventional approach (Bendelow 2009). However it also individualises the issue and ignores the role social conditions. The role of urban design on the mental health of city dwellers is gaining increasing recognition . However, the emotional impact of superficial, disengaged cities (Sennet 2000) goes unrecognised. Instead of treating the symptoms of mental illness, we would do well to address the social conditions of our cities as the root cause.

Melissa Mackay said : Guest Report 5 months ago

As Bendelow (2009) identified, medicalisation has long been regarded a feasible solution to “emotional instability” (p.81) and mental illness in the West, and in Australia, prescription medications like anti-depressants are consistently being used by individuals to return to a sense of emotional ‘normalcy’. Sennett (2000) suggests that perhaps these feelings associated with mental illness, including those of depression and anxiety, and more specifically, loneliness, can be attributed to the way in which we situate ourselves in our environments. Sennett states that Western society no longer creates social spaces, but rather reproduces the same stagnate cities that are uniform in appearance, transparent and focused on increasing revenue. The cities in which we inhabit fail to reflect the “complex human beings” we aspire to be, and Sennett suggests that this is a point of interest concerned parties need to consider when trying to resolve the mental health crisis Western society is faced with. I think that as human beings we crave social interaction, yet we as a society seem to want convenience too, and maybe we view interaction with others as too taxing in some cases. Take of the implementation of self-serve checkouts in supermarkets for example, and the aversion some people have to them — they argue that they are impersonal and detract from the overall shopping experience. Others hail them as a great innovation that makes their day run much smoother. I think it’s interesting that in the past there was a central focus on social interaction in transactions like this, but now we are moving away from it. I think it clearly reflects the “superficial and disengaged relations” that Sennett was exploring in his analysis of anti-social cities and makes me wonder what formally social spaces like this will look like in the near future if Western society continues down this path.

Eunkyu Kim said : Guest Report 5 months ago

In late modern society, many people are in an emotional state of depression, anxiety and loneliness. This is because of various causes of the society that an individual is facing. One of the ‘core’ reason that can explain the emotional state of people in late modern society is the development and transformation of urban cultural values. Capitalism allowed transformation in workplace where work became more flexible and less rigid. Further, workplaces are less emphasising on long term work. When the tasks are over, the job is over. Sennet (2000) points out that this mechanism of work has the same effect in city. People are living short period of time in certain city due to flexible workplace. This lead to disorientation of family life thus lead to emotional sate of depression, anxiety and lonliness. Furthermore, Bendelow (2009, p. 99) points out that people with mental illness and clinical depression suffers certain emotional state due to the social, cultural and economic factors. Thus, the core factor of emotional illness is due to the malaise of social and cultural factors often occur by economic and structural pressure of the society. #S344UOW18 #Tut 9 #MON1230

Abby Tozer said : Guest Report 5 months ago

The emergence of what Sennett (2000) describes as ‘new capitalism’ has resulted in the destruction of the richness often associated with the urban lifestyle. The late modern working environment and subsequently the personal lives of city dwellers is becoming far more standardised, with the flexibility of employment ‘no long term’, we begin to see this lack of commitment and uncertainty transcend into our personal lives. Bendelow (2009, pg. 101-102) integrates the issues of societal causal factors and the medicalisation of loneliness, angst and depression within the urban environment. He notes that the uncertainty and stress of the new workplace, has resulted in the collapse of the nuclear family structure in urbanized societies, thus impacting upon the mental health of many city dwellers. In one study he notes how the prognosis for those suffering schizophrenia is much better with the social involvement of the extended family, however with the demands of the modern working life, the urban family structure is not able to support these needs. Bendelow (2009, pg. 102) furthers this to say that by treating Schizophrenia one must integrate cultural and social support with medicalisation. So the question remains; Why does Western society continue to encourage medicalisation as treatment, rather than tackle preventative societal factors? Society is encouraged by the government and health professionals to rely upon a booming pharmaceutical industry to tackle mental illness, when the real issues are so deeply engrained within the ‘incompleteness’ of our urban centres. Mental illness will continue to rise if prevention is not prioritised over cure. #S344UOW18 #Tut10 #Mon1230

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