Mental Health Challenges Related to Neoliberal Capitalism in the United States
Rates of mental illness have increased dramatically over the past 15 years in the United States (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2017). Additionally, life expectancy has fallen over the past several years due to increases in death from suicide, opioid overdose, and alcoholic liver cirrhosis as reported by Case and Deaton (2020). Over the last decade some have questioned whether these changes are due to neoliberal capitalist policies and ideologies.
Neoliberal capitalism incorporates theories of eliminating all restrictions on the market and decreasing government assistance programs as reported by Harvey (2005). Since then these policies have led to income inequality, disempowerment of workers, outsourcing of manufacturing jobs, inadequate social services, mass incarceration and an expensive and ineffective healthcare system as reported by Case and Deaton (2020) and Nkansah-Amankra et al. (2013).
Studies have shown that the consequences of these policies and ideologies likely have a role in increasing rates of mental illness. This paper discusses how these factors increase mental distress and postulate ways that mental health professionals can advocate for change.