On pills and privilege

When I came to terms with my mental illness, it was not simply through the help of family and friends. I was lucky enough to have the guidance of a psychologist.

Living with mental illness is unfair and exhausting, but there are degrees to which we, as individuals, suffer. If I didn’t have the familial and financial support to access psychotherapy and medication, I’d be in a far worse place right now.

The term “privilege” is ubiquitous in media culture today, and for good reason. It’s not about social justice warriors attacking you for the wealth or complexion you never asked for. It’s about encouraging you to recognise what you have, to see how and where it places you over others.

With my subject position as a young, middle-class white woman in South Africa, I feel it crucial to make this post on privilege and mental health. To blog about my experiences without even considering that I may have it easier than others… there’s something wrong with that. In terms of mental health treatment, South Africa is lagging. A recent HuffPost SA article states that one in three people in the country will suffer from a mental health-related condition at least once in their lifetime, yet this is underfunded, with less than five percent of the health budget in SA spent on mental healthcare.

If you are poor, unemployed, or live in a rural area, chances are that finding adequate healthcare for your mental illness will be no easy task. It is appalling that no new mental healthcare facilities have been built since in this country since 1994 . Evidently, we are in dire need of a change. Honestly, I haven’t done enough research on this topic to go about issuing any ideas, but this is an unjust situation that needs our attention.

If you have the means to acquire help from a therapist/psychologist/private doctor/etc, don’t feel guilty. Guilt over one’s privilege is a waste of time. But acknowledge that it’s there, question it and the systems that have made it so. Don’t expect people to empathise with you if you aren’t looking at the world through a broader lens.


[If you have any thoughts on mental health and privilege, or want to critique anything I’ve said, do feel free to comment down below. I felt the urge to post this as soon as I could, but I know that there is a lot that I’ve left out.]

[Header image: Jason Doan]


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