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The public secret of anxiety

Only a small minority of people (13%) report living with high levels of good mental health.
 — Surviving or Thriving? The state of the UK’s mental health

Today’s public secret is that everyone is anxious.
 — We Are All Very Anxious, Plan C

It’s hard for me to think about anything more personal than my anxiety problems. Yet it’s becoming ridiculous to talk about mental health in any other way than as a problem that, in one way or another, effects us all. I just read in a magazine that three out of four bosses have sleeping problems. I can’t say I feel sorry for them. But it clearly means that you can’t buy your way out of all of the negative effects of this economic system any more.

Still, I find it hard to talk about my own anxiety in political terms. I’m in many aspects in a privileged position myself, as white, heterosexual, male and so on. And the way I was taught about activism is that your personal struggles only become something political if your part of an oppressed group. Which I’m not. But my anxiety, just like the bosses’ sleeping problems, is still caused by an oppressive and dysfunctional economic system.

Public secrets are typically personalised. The problem is only visible at an individual, psychological level; the social causes of the problem are concealed. Each phase [of capitalism] blames the system’s victims for the suffering that the system causes.
 — We Are All Very Anxious, Plan C

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