Recovery culture: The promotion of depression and consumption of mental health technologies in contemporary social practices
This project asks why depression has become the most popular mental illness in the nineties, mapping particular contemporary state, industrial and cultural policies that define and regulate subjects with depressed mood. The project is a critical exploration that seeks to reveal the conditions making possible the current increased rate of diagnosed behavioral and mood disorders, and the increased use of biopsychiatric therapies. It does so by evaluating practices that have normalized the surveillance and regulation of normal behavior in recent historical moments, namely mental hygiene programs in the 1960's and 1970's and in contemporary state, industrial and cultural policies promoting techniques of prevention and recovery. The study also investigates consistent and contradictory discourses in depression science and health policy that construct personality norms and diagnostic practices. It tracks the depression historically in the DSM, arguing that the diagnosis encourages discipline or self-discipline in particular niche groups. The study links the hysteria epidemic to depression, arguing that the latter is paradoxically refeminized and democratized—made applicable to a broad population. The study analyzes this new trend in “broad spectrum” diagnosis; and calls for increased rates of depression diagnoses, and promotion of biopsychiatric prevention therapies. It does so by investigating depression discourses of public health departments, private health insurance industries, anti-depressant pharmaceutical industries, “cultural” (non-governmental) groups, and new information and television industries that market self-help therapies. The study details a mental health “system” that links diagnosis with recovery in a practice that is gender, race and class biased, and ultimately seeks to improve consumer. Employing post-structuralism, feminist cultural studies and critical theory, this project analyses the diagnosis and treatment of depression to understand how cultural health ideals are communicated—that is, how they interact with psychiatric discourses to produce, circulate, and normalize dominant knowledges of mood and personality. It reveals that relationships of knowledge exchange among state, industrial and cultural practices work to promote prevention and recovery, and social activities and policies regulate the female body and behavior. Finally, the study addresses possibilities for resisting diagnosis and recovery.
0323: American studies
0453: Womens studies