15 May 2023
The Federal Budget’s $10.5 million spend to support the mental health of Indigenous Australians leading up to the Voice referendum is chilling proof that the language of mental injury has become a political tool.
In the grand scheme of eye-watering government spending the amount is tokenistic, but its message is monumental. Labor wants us to believe that airing more than one side of the issue is so dangerous that money is needed to ‘fix’ the damage. Apparently, if you do not fanatically support the Voice then you are psychologically harming Indigenous Australians.
It is downright insulting to suggest that Indigenous people are incapable of taking part in society without being traumatised, or so infantile that they need professional help to cope with robust discussion. But beyond that, this seemingly innocuous Budget measure is grim confirmation that the state has co-opted the mental health bandwagon to serve its own ends.
It should be obvious that claims of ‘mental unsafeness’ are purely because Labor wants to avoid awkward questions about race-based politics. Unfortunately, the zeitgeist of our times is such that when the holy spectre of mental health is invoked all logical thought is jettisoned and criticism becomes inconceivable.
Political weaponisation of mental health is rarely so blatant. Usually it slides under the radar, obscured by convenient statistics about Australians’ worsening mental wellbeing. In fairness, the figures make it clear that something has, indeed, gone very wrong.
Almost three million Australians each year receive some form of government-subsidised mental health treatment. Mental health spending sits in the billions, and continues rising. Antidepressants are prescribed like lollies. Survey after survey says that people’s self-reported mental wellbeing is, on average, getting poorer over time.
On the back of this, public health campaigns unceasingly instruct us to be vigilant for ‘mental health concerns’ under the guise of saving lives. We are conditioned to see a possible suicide in the mildest utterance of unhappiness, and a potential homicide in any expression of anger. The faintest whiff of a ‘mental health issue’ is increasingly used by authorities to justify monitoring, assessment, and scrutiny of citizens – for their own and society’s good, of course.
The reality is that the majority of people with ‘mental health issues’ are not seriously unwell. They are not taking orders from God, and are unlikely to smother their grandmother in her sleep because they think she is poisoning their food. Most have low-level anxiety and depression. In other words, they are worried and sad.
It is easy to view this as the medicalisation of a normal reaction to unpleasant experiences like financial stress – and it is. But that cannot explain why Australia’s collective mental deterioration started long before current cost of living pressures kicked in. When you take a step back, it looks suspiciously as if the more the state has normalised the idea of being mentally unwell and needing help, the more this has driven people to become convinced that they are mentally unwell and need help.
Alongside this, Wokeness has risen and freedom and autonomy have slipped away. This is no coincidence. Individual freedom has long been the foundation of human flourishing. But with the aid of the eternally self-interested mental health industry, the state has enlisted psychobabble to break this connection. We have been conned into believing that existential disquiet is the sign of an abnormal mental state that government services can fix, rather than a justified sense of foreboding stemming from the ever-heavier boot of government on our necks.
We are forced, through never-ending legislation and vicious social judgment, into humourless straitjackets of leftist morality and po-faced censoriousness. Police are called on to investigate wrongthink. Ideologically non-conformist views are labelled psychologically suspect. Failing to look after others’ ‘mental safety’ can land you in court. The ability to laugh, to mock, to be private, to raise your children with the belief system you decide on, to free range in the outdoors, to be self-sufficient, to hold a job, to associate freely, to criticise, to be different, to give offence, to hold people responsible for themselves, even to tell the truth, is being strangled.
Governments continually take away the very outlets that human beings need to ride out life’s inevitable hardships, and tell us to trust that we are better off for this. Then, if life somehow feels hollow, we are urged to see a mental health professional. The more the state passes off being uncomfortable about the erosion of liberty as a sign of mental unwellness, the more authoritarianism rises and the unhappier people become. And the unhappier we are, the more the state intrudes in our lives in the name of caring about mental health.
If we truly want to improve people’s wellbeing, we must curb the massive overreach of government and get its tentacles out of every aspect of our lives. This cannot happen until we break the toxic link between the mental health industry and government power, and reject the use of psychological language that demonises dissent. And that starts with calling out Labor’s $10.5 million deceit.
Lillian Andrews writes about politics, society, feminism and anything else that interests her. You can find her on Twitter @SaysAwfulThings.
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Comment by Nelle-he has plenty on money for this insult to Aborigines but nothing for their fellow white Australians-many are homeless and hungry and he couldn’t care less-he is living off the workers backs in the lap of luxury- a pox on you Albo you are a traitor of the first order and that will be your legacy