18 May Mental health is not reassurance, it is active adaptation. Covid-19 Biopolitics.
The great crisis of the Covid-19 pandemic is placing biopolitical approaches more than ever at the centre of the social debate. And mental health is a relevant aspect of this debate.
Thus, it is common to find information about mental health in the situation of the pandemic, with learned and well-intentioned advice on how to calm down, how to entertain ourselves, what to do so as not to be uncomfortable and so that confinement passes pleasantly while maintaining optimism. These tips are highly appreciated, but we must not forget that in the meantime, while we are distracted, many of the pillars on which our society is based are beginning to move. And they also do it in a disturbing direction.
Nobody escapes that this crisis is carrying a serious risk of loss in social, labour, and privacy rights … in view of which, if we just remain in reassurance, this strategy is bread for today and hunger for tomorrow (literally), is at least a partial answer. Isn’t it more adaptive to worry and stand up, solve problems, even if it’s not pleasant? Isn’t it more adaptive in this situation to be alert, even if it is uncomfortable?
This approach, above all, not to bother us, to be calm, if it is not contextualized, is closely linked to the prevailing social model of consumption and low-cost happiness in which mental health, understood as avoiding any concern, has become one more product of The shopping cart. Mental health is not being calm and relaxed as the world moves at your feet. Mental health is an active adaptation. And the worry, the discomfort, even the symptoms as the evolutionist psy shows us are sometimes healthier and more adaptive than the slutty and the numbness. The stress of confinement may just be the prologue to the coming social stress.
As Noemi Klein pointed out, disaster situations are associated with great social changes in which rights and freedoms are laminated. Therefore, beyond the stress of the discomforts of confinement (which incidentally, especially the most precarious citizens, including immigrants) suffer, the most relevant stress is the disruptive social change that may be brewing while we are in Babia. We can wake up very calm and relaxed but we find ourselves in a nightmare world. Just to give an example, how is this situation going to affect young people today to have children?
Of course, the fact that we are also told uninterruptedly of the dangers we run (largely from fake news and disinformation), favours fear, the most primitive and destructuring emotion, tends to block our ability to analyze and seek reassurance to any price. After terrorism, it is obvious that fear of pandemics is going to be an essential axis of biopolitics, a hegemonic theme. And with the risk of an intense hypochondrisation of society, expressed at the level of the mental health area as psychiatrization of stress and social problems.
From the perspective of biopolitics, a term contributed by Rudolf Kjellén and developed by Michael Foucault, the body (and the mind) constitute a raw material to be exploited by the social system, but the response of the subject must be emancipatory, against the devices of power-seeking standardization. We have to have a proactive idea of mental health, not to pose it in a passive, almost masochistic way, adapting ourselves to those who come upon us. We cannot settle on that old saying: “May God our Lord does not send us all the evils that we are capable of enduring.”
In any case, this crisis situation can also be an incentive to react as a society and to generate a broad debate in which the biopolitics of mental health must be a relevant topic. As Hölderlin wrote: “Wherever danger lurks, what saves us also grows.”