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  • Writer's picturePatrick Ireland

Capitalism Is Making Us Mentally Ill

Updated: Aug 19, 2020

This articles was originally published by Shout Out UK on 05/10/2017.

The Right-wing often claim that Leftists want to continuously interfere in people’s lives. Cradle to the grave. The nanny state. Big government. … I’m sure you’ve heard the rhetoric, right?

The opposite, is in fact true.

Capitalism sees no distinction between the public and private because it requires both to constantly reproduce itself. It’s important to understand that capitalism is not just a political or economic ideology; but a homogenising entity whose very survival rests on how deeply it is involved within our lives. Capitalism is the most totalising ideology that humanity has ever known. Its hunger knows no bounds.

Today, most of us are aware, and will freely admit, that we are currently in the grips of a mental health crisis. An epidemic. Killing indiscriminately, especially the young. In my view, this crisis has been extenuated — and in some cases even directly caused — by capitalism.


Very simply, capitalism is about creating markets in order for capitalists to extract profit from the production of goods.

Moreover, capitalism is constantly looking to expand or grow (‘growth’ in the economy) which means that it needs to make a multitude of goods, create millions of markets and then re-sell that same product over and over. As such, not only does a market or product need to be constructed; but in many cases the desire to buy that product, or access that market, must also be created.

It is in the construction of that desire that capitalism crawls into the most intimate aspects of our lives and seeks to exploit our feelings of insecurity and self-worth, in order to motivate us to buy non-essential goods we are then convinced, in crude terms, will make us feel better about ourselves.

The problem is that those feelings — the insecurities, the self-loathing — they themselves are almost totally constructed by capitalism. Or at the very least, they manifest themselves within a capitalist context. What I mean is we come to define ourselves through what we own or what we want to own.

Furthermore, capitalism does not want us to ever feel truly fulfilled — or come to terms with these negative emotions — because it needs to re-sell these various non-essential goods to us, over and over, throughout the course of our entire lives. From cradle to grave. As a result, capitalism looks to trap us in a state of self-perpetrating insecurity because we are then easily susceptible to its advertising, apathetic to its injustices and passive to its subordinating tactics.

Now, after decades of ruthless exploitation — combined with things such as debt, job insecurity and a crisis in living standards — mental health has festered beneath the human veneer and bubbled to the surface as a kind of cancer of the mind.

That is not to say that all mental health conditions are a result of capitalism. They’re not. But the current crisis, the sheer volume of people now diagnosed with depression and anxiety, is.

Indeed, capitalism has also affected how we perceive and understand the world.

Part of the capitalist hegemony is creating this false idea of ‘human nature’ in which humankind is characterised, without exception, as being inherently selfish, greedy and self-serving. This is used not only to defend the moral horrors of capitalism, but to also help build that sense of constantly wanting things because we are told that’s what being human is all about. It’s our nature.

Consequently, empathy and human kindness are presented as contrary to human nature — despite the fact that they are very natural feelings — and even labelled as somehow ‘weak’ or ‘negative’. In effect, capitalism says that black is white; and white is black. It reverses vice (greed, selfishness, etc.) into virtue.

Because this, in itself, is an irrational way of thinking about the world and understanding our emotional complexities, it creates internal conflict within the human mind. We know, innately, that greed and selfishness are bad — and yet under capitalism, they are celebrated as the most sought-after qualities to possess.

This internal conflict is just another element that fuels the mass breeding of mental health issues. Our mind becomes essentially contrary to its natural way of understanding and perceiving. Warped and twisted by capitalism.

Lastly, I do think it is important to point out that this problem is not merely restricted to the working and middle classes. Capitalists themselves are also victims of capitalism. … Poetic irony, I know. Just look around at the lives of the rich — plastered across our newspapers and television screens.

On the whole, their lives are quite lonely; they struggle to form meaningful, romantic relationships; and they often turn to drugs and alcohol to medicate their profound depressions.

Capitalism is a curse on the wealthy as well as the poor because of its constant need to grow. Even if you are incredibly wealthy you can never have enough because, under capitalism, there is never enough. Capitalism has no bounds. It constantly needs to be fed.

The rich are then forced to live these lives in which they are insecure about their finances, guilty about the role they play in the horrors of the world and ultimately left empty because, a life based on money and accumulation, is, in itself, unfulfilling. Especially when you can’t have a meaningful relationship or the job you do is simply printing money out of a computer.

Capitalism robs us ALL of meaningful function within society. If we are to solve the mental health crisis affecting this country then we need to look at capitalism more closely. Even if you were to disregard the environmental or economic effects of capitalism, as we are witnessing today… it is clear that it is not a healthy ideology.

The system needs to be irrevocably changed.

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