Through a combination of critical and creative writing, my thesis aims to establish poetry as a viable intervention into the politicisation of mental health issues.
The World Health Organisation states that ‘depression is the leading cause of disability worldwide… with more than 300 million people affected… [and] 800,000 people dying due to suicide every year’ (Brunier). Current mainstream approaches to mental illness have been confined to the individual.
There is a wealth of literature detailing how ‘mental illness has been depoliticised’ (Mark Fisher), how ‘within [the current] framework, individual behaviour is decontextualised from social circumstances’ (Trivelli) and how ‘it is customary… to attribute these feelings [of depression and mental illness] to bad things that happened to us when we were children… [or] as the result of a biochemical disorder’ (Cvetkovich).
My thesis aims to recontextualise mental health within our contemporary political moment with its subjection of individuals to slow violence. The forms of slow violence I refer to include but aren’t limited to social inequality, homelessness, social isolation, and the disinterest of the welfare state. I will reveal through this recontextualization how mental illness is bound up within these relations of power.
I will be writing a sequence of poetry in three parts, eliding traditional poetic forms through prose poetry, a situationist-detournement of found text and a lyric-essay.
Trivelli recognises that “from the damp room of depression, words often fail, discourses collapse.” If mental illness is a place where language and critical thinking fall short, can poetry harness this breakdown of language, allowing words to tremble, garner new resonance, and open up new sites of communication and understanding? Can a space be created within these new sites of communication and understanding for an approach to care and mental health which accounts for the subjection of the individual to slow violence?