I sat down in person with Dr. Harriet Fraad, who works with the Marxian economist Richard D Wolff, on Tuesday to discuss the pathologizing of conditions like depression that author and journalist Johann Hari recently illustrated in his new book ‘Lost Connections‘. The video interview can be watched at the end of this article. Here is some information on Dr. Fraad from her website:
Harriet Fraad is a mental health counselor and hypnotherapist in practice in New York City. She is a founding member of the feminist movement and the journal Rethinking Marxism. For 40 years, she has been a radical committed to transforming US personal and political life.
Harriet specializes in speaking and writing about topics in which psychology and economics overlap, as these topics remain loaded with taboos, confusions, ignorance, and fear preventing us from asking big questions and daring to discuss big answers. By analyzing issues where psychology and economics collide, we can better analyze our society and our individuality as well.
We discussed the solutions of conditions like depression and the search for real solutions instead of false capitalism ‘solutions’ seeking to ‘profit’ rather than truly solve problems. “The corporate/ capitalist ‘solution’ which is to sell them something that doesn’t work. Which, because it doesn’t work, they keep prescribing more and more. That is our mental health care system which is a ‘profit’ driven health care system and mental health care system”.
Dr Fraad talked about the significance of the Occupy Wall Street movement, “The 99% and the 1%, people started to say, No. It was a national effort to crush that movement. They changed the discourse and the language that discussed racism, sexism but never class. Never why are some people so ‘rich’ and other people so ‘poor'”. We discussed the blatant rigging of the system and how companies outsource jobs to cheap labor overseas. “Donald Trump’s Make America Great Again hats are made in China”.
Dr Fraad mentioned Irving Kirsch and his book The Emperor’s New Drugs: Exploding the Antidepressant Myth. “Antidepressants work no better than a sugar pill. That SSRI’s: Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors. The only thing they can be counted on to to is give you side effects. Those are absolutely reliable.”
Dr Fraad stated, “England is more sophisticated than we”, and then went on to talk about, “Joe Cox (Helen Joanne Cox) who was a very, very important member of Parliament. She was beloved because she really served the people in her district and a labor representative in the style of Corbyn, a left, anti-Capitalist, labor representative.” Cox was killed by a white nationalist in public in June 2016.
“But, not before she did a study on loneliness in England and created the Minister of Loneliness. Loneliness, isolation, depression, anxiety and that’s something that has been written brilliantly written about in Johann Hari’s Lost Connections“.
I asked Dr Fraad about the point Hari makes about our physical needs for food, clothing, shelter, and also our emotional needs for belonging, meaningful work, feeling valued, etc. I shared how my own experience has shown me that humans are meant to live to an optimum level of health and fitness physically, emotionally and spiritually and not live at such a low bar we seem to have set for ourselves. Health is not just the absence of cancer.
Dr Fraad added, “Then capitalism comes in a sells people drugs, weapons, testosterone cream because men no longer have family wages that allow them to be served by women. Capitalism Creates the disaster and then sells things to deal with it that don’t deal with it”.
I then brought up the point Hari makes about the depressed person, and not just depression but, many other normal human expressions like anger, where it’s the depressed person who is left to deal and handle the problem themselves as if they are the problem alone when the fact is it is a systemic worldwide problem and needs to be addressed and dealt with.
It’s not even the depressed person’s fault. They are the inheritors of the problem, the scapegoat for others. The “depressed” person, or the “criminal” or the “angry” person is nothing but the symptom of the SYSTEM and everyone else who is a contributor. It’s just the person who exhibits the problem that gets singled out as the ill person. A depressed person is often the individual that puts the effort in to expose uncomfortable truths. But the problem begins because the other people around that person avoid looking at themselves and taking on any responsibility so the problems “collect” on the “depressed” person.
The modern epidemic of depression is EVERYONE’S problem just like climate change is everyone’s problem. And it’s those who are LEAST responsible, the indigenous and the poor, who end up inheriting the bill.
To close the interview, Dr. Fraad spoke about the remarkable story of the Sackler family and Big Pharma who have ‘profited’ excessively from the sale of Oxycontin and other pain killers responsible for the explosion in cases of addiction and overdose deaths in the America. The full interview can be watched here: