Callout for submissions: depression and the class struggle

Callout for submissions:  depression and the class struggle

A number of us have begun work on a pamphlet/online text which seeks to offer advice to those who suffer from depression. While the bulk of the text is complete, we’re still looking for submissions from those who’ve dealt with depression, how it’s affected their involvement in class politics, and what strategies folks have found useful for managing mental health in general.

It’s no secret that depression is common in the class struggle community. Coming out of a libcom discussion thread, we realized there was a need for a simple text to which those who are suffering from depression could be directed.

The initial idea was to write up some basic tips and then include accounts from others who've face similar emotional stress. The accounts would be honest and would, again, include tips and advice dealing with depression as a politically active individual.

As the conversation grew, however, we decided to include a section giving advice from a worker in the mental health industry. We have even included a short section designed to start a conversation within anarchist and class struggle groups encouraging them to proactively look at the issue of mental health within their ranks. So, if you’re part of a group or organisation which has sought to address mental health issues, we want to hear from you, too.

Submissions can be as personal (or impersonal) as you want. Although most submissions so far have been 500 to 1000 words, there is no minimum or maximum length. We may offer suggestions for clarifications or additions, but you will always have the final say on what’s published. Additionally, all submissions will be kept totally confidential and anonymous.

If you, your group, or anyone you know would be interested in submitting an account, please PM me or send an email to fleurlibcommie (at) gmail.com

Also, if anyone has leaflet layout skills and would be interested in helping out, please let us know!

Finally, we’ve included a short included a short excerpt from the text so folk have a bit more of an idea what we’re trying to accomplish.

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This piece of writing comes out a series of discussions which occurred on the forums of libcom.org. It was repeatedly raised that depression, mental illness, and emotional stress are very common amongst libertarian political activists. Furthermore, suffering from mental illness as someone who is politically active often comes with its own set complications. Sometimes the wider anarchist/activist community is supportive and helpful. Other times, we can feel just as alienated amongst fellow anarchists as we do from the rest of capitalist society.

With that in mind, we’ve attempted to offer some advice on what’s generally helpful in dealing with depression, anxiety, and overall mental stress. From there, we have a number of personal accounts exploring the intersection of political activity and mental health. We hope readers who suffer from depression can identify with them and that they may prove helpful in both providing support and in helping to develop strategies for staying healthy.

Following that, we have a series of links (some anarchist, some more mainstream) that we hope will be helpful in a crisis situations or if you’re just looking to see how others have approached these same questions. This is followed with an account from a radical health worker, giving tips and advice for navigating the mental health system and ensuring your voice and your rights are respected by the medical establishment. Although the account is written from a specifically British context, we hope the gist of the advice will apply regardless.

We conclude with a short section on dealing with mental health issues in class struggle organisations. This is far from exhaustive and, in fact, is more a series of suggestions that groups might consider in formulating a policy and practice of addressing mental health issues and supporting members suffering from depression, anxiety, and overall mental health.

We don’t, however, want to pretend for a second that this pamphlet is a substitute for professional medical advice. While we’re critical of certain aspect of mental health treatment, if you’re suffering from serious depression or considering hurting yourself, please speak to someone immediately.

Comments

Chilli Sauce
Apr 7 2013 12:00

Also, we're still looking for good links that deal with depression and class struggle. These can be accounts, coping strategies, whatever. If you got 'em, share 'em.

Antonio de cleyre
Apr 7 2013 13:33

When I was new to political economy I was interested in the idea that depression can function as a kind of involuntary refusal- especially of work, but also of ideology, of consumption, of capitalist society generally. I sort of grew out of that thinking though.

ites
Apr 7 2013 13:37

Great initiative.

ites
Apr 7 2013 13:39

In my experience a lot of it comes out of learned helplessness. We have this tendency to think of people who are passive and apathetic (and often, just quietly, depressed) as not interested in reclaming control over the course of their own destiny vis a vis abolishing the wage system, but I think in reality a lot of that has to do with believing that we can't - much of which is reinforced by shitty social dynamics within activist and anarchist milieus as well.

Malatripa
Apr 7 2013 14:06

Hello, I am 26 years old and I study Fine Arts in Barcelona, Catalunya. I am very interested in the topic of your article and your project in general. The matters of depression, anxiety, agony and alienation and their connection to the social, political and economic situations have always troubled my mind as I came very close to those issues while I was living in Greece during the first years of the greek economic crisis (I was studying History and History of the Arts in Thessaloniki from 2007 to 2012). While the crisis was getting bigger and deeper you could actually see the impact it had on the people. The change of the social environment, the change of everyday life, the never-ending shock propaganda from the media, the oppression tactics of the political system etc also transformed the people. This is very clear when you see the charts which show a decrease in life expectancy and an increase in suicide rates.
Anyway, I would like to help if it is possible with the leaflet layout. Designing posters and stickers has always been a favorite for me and I have already done some work on similar topics. Good luck with your project and please let me know if I could do something.

Chilli Sauce
Apr 7 2013 14:39

Fantastic Malatripa, I'll PM you tonite.

mons
Apr 7 2013 15:34

This sounds like it could be interesting, and I might submit something, or like it could be really quite frustrating. Tying either bi-polar or clinical depression to political persuasion is pretty wrong I think, and I think even linking exploitative society with it isn't that sensible an approach to depression. Glad that people who work with mental health are contributing, nothing would be worse than anarchists who don't know much about mental health in a medical way spouting ill-informed opinions about it! On that note, I hope there is a clear distinction made between medical depression, and just feeling down and hating society, etc. Not that the latter is unimportant but the two are very different things.

I think a lot of the perception that 'activists' or libertarian communists are more likely to suffer from depression just comes from the fact that most people keep it hidden and it still isn't talked about; 1/4 people suffer with it at some point, so it's hardly surprising lots of anarchists do!

Basically, is this project trying to, modestly and sensibly, address mental health problems and how our organisations deal with them and accommodate for mental illness? Or is it more ambitiously trying to say novel things about how depression (including bi-polar? anxiety? and other mental illnesses? or just clinical?) is linked with class struggle and capitalism?

I have some more thoughts that I'l write out later, or maybe just turn into a longer thing and submit.

Chilli Sauce
Apr 7 2013 15:41

Mons, it'd be great to have something from you. Email me if you want to read what we have so far.

Quote:
Glad that people who work with mental health are contributing, nothing would be worse than anarchists who don't know much about mental health in a medical way spouting ill-informed opinions about it!

While I agree with you that it's important to have medical health professionals involved, the bulk of the material is from sufferers of depression themselves. It's mostly just about personal coping/management strategies that have been beneficial.

So it's mostly personalized. The section about mental health within class struggle organizations isn't much more than some discussion topics. And throghout we repeat that the pamphlet is no subsitute for professional treatment (when such treatment is appropriate, of course).

Quote:
Or is it more ambitiously trying to say novel things about how depression (including bi-polar? anxiety? and other mental illnesses? or just clinical?) is linked with class struggle and capitalism?

No, not at all.

Quote:
I think a lot of the perceptions that 'activists'...

Incidentally, there's a very short section on terminology that addresses that very word...

EDITED to further address Mon's questions. (Good to see you posting, btw.)

mons
Apr 7 2013 15:48

Hey Chilli, great, that sounds good - and I'd imagine most sufferers of depression are relatively clued up about mental health so the personal approach is definitely good. I will try submit something but can't promise anything, pretty busy at the moment!

lightrae
Apr 7 2013 20:44

Hi, I have experience helping people with depression as a music therapist would be delighted to contribute to your project. I will email

Italy Calling
Apr 7 2013 21:33

Hello, I'm not sure whether you've heard of them already but the Icarus Project is an amazing project doing lots of stuff around mental health and activism. This is their main website: http://theicarusproject.net/

And this is a list of their publications and resources: http://theicarusproject.net/resources
I have read some of them and it's really good stuff. They started in the US but as far as I know there are groups here in Europe/ UK too.

Also recently found this: http://mindfuloccupation.org/

Chilli Sauce
Apr 7 2013 22:02

lightrae, looking forward to hearing from you!

Italy Calling, of we've got some Icarus Project action in there indeed. Checking out Mindful Occupation right now...

Chilli Sauce
Apr 7 2013 22:11

I've just found this as well...

http://anarchia.files.wordpress.com/2008/05/our-dark-passenger-v2.pdf

..which along with the Mindful Occupation pamphlet linked to above, might be finding their way into the libcom library this week...

A Wotsit
Apr 7 2013 22:13

Thanks to everyone who is working on this and making submissions. I am really looking forward to seeing the finished product.

JoeMaguire
Apr 7 2013 22:51

Who is 'we' in the context of putting together this?

Chilli Sauce
Apr 8 2013 08:30

Hey Joe, so far we have five or so contributors, but as the project is anonymous, I don't want to disclose any names. If you look on one of the latter pages of the 'Venting our despair' thread, you'll be able to see some of the folks who volunteered publicly to be involved, if you're interested. There's also a clue in the name of the email address linked to in the OP.

RE: capitalism and depression. I think there's certainly a link between poverty and health (mental and physical). I also think it's fair to say that the more unfettered the relations of capital become (an expression I f*cking love right there), the more alienation and atomization will be experienced by the individual members of society. I think depression and general emotional distress are a fairly logical outcome of that. But that is not what the pamphlet is about, so don't worry.

Chilli Sauce
Apr 8 2013 08:17

I've got a couple of requests asking about a timeline. I'm thinking at least a month (at a minimum) to get accounts in, two weeks for editing, and then anywhere from a week to a month for layout. So there's no rush.

armillaria
Mar 4 2014 20:34

*flaps in to annoyingly reiterate, again, the importance of remembering that people, in pursuit of relief from their suffering, may have very different interests than an industry that needs to push people back into narrow status-quo behaviors and routinely uses violence to this end*

snipfool
Mar 4 2014 20:39

Was this published?

Chilli Sauce
Mar 4 2014 22:04

Well, Snip, it's still a work in progress. All the material was collected and edited a while ago. Unfortunately, there have been some pretty serious hold-ups in layout and publishing. But I assure you it hasn't fallen off the radar and that it will be published. Eventually.

snipfool
Mar 4 2014 22:14

Glad to hear it's still on the radar. Forgot about this and thought I might have missed it

Fleur
Mar 4 2014 22:26

Can I also add that it hasn't fallen into a black hole and that it's still ongoing but also to say thanks to everyone who contributed their experiences and information, I think it's really important and it's much appreciated and it hasn't been forgotten about.

Chilli Sauce
Apr 20 2014 12:15

UPDATE!!! It's all coming together. We could use a few folks to give it all a once-over. PM me if you can volunteer to proof a few pages....

Chilli Sauce
Oct 28 2014 15:54

Well, despite some overly optimistic projections above, the final pamphlet is finally out!

http://libcom.org/library/class-struggle-mental-health-live-fight-another-day

Thanks to everyone who contributed and who shared the original callout!