Monday, September 12, 2011

The Medicalization of Europe

Medicalizing Deviance Rolls Across Europe:

A major landmark study released today by the European College of Neuropsychopharmacology (ECNP) sheds new light on the state of Europe’s mental and neurological health. The study finds reveal that mental disorders have become Europe’s largest health challenge in the 21st century.

This three-year multi-method study, published today in European Neuropsychopharmacology, covers 30 countries (the European Union plus Switzerland, Iceland and Norway) and a population of 514 million people. All major mental disorders for children and adolescents (2-17), adults (18-65), and the elderly (65+ years) are included, as well as several neurological disorders. The inclusion of the full spectrum of disorders across all age groups, examined simultaneously in a single study, is unprecedented.

The study’s key findings include:

  • Each year, 38.2% of the EU’s population – or 164.8 million people – suffers from a mental disorder.
  • Mental disorders are prevalent in all age groups and affect the young as well as the elderly, revealing though differences in what diagnoses are the most frequent.
  • Except for substance disorders and mental retardation, no significant cultural or country variations were found.
Of course not. Social control via pharmacology recognizes no cultural or nation-state boundaries.

What's alarming, however, is that Big Pharma-induced social control has been a uniquely American trend the past 15 years. As rates of mental illness skyrocketed here, no comparable data worldwide would support a similar maddening of society.

But now we are seeing "mental illness diagnoses" spring up across Europe. Magically and quite overnight, 164 million people are now mentally ill in Europe and are being prescribed psycho-pharmaceuticals for their "disorders."

I'll defer to SocProf at Global Sociology for my take (and for having alerted me to the study):
What this highlights is how much medical disorders are socially constructed. Oftentimes, new medical designations reflect the social anxieties of our time and provide new ways of disciplining deviant without the guilt; after all, treating a disorder is a humane thing to do.

These classifications also reflect power relations between various institutions such as the criminal justice system, the psychiatric establishment and the pharmaceutical industry. At the other end of the spectrum, to whom these designations get applied is also a matter of social power and socially more or less acceptable and stigmatized populations.
Like women, for one:

Once a condition is defined as medical disorder, then, the solution is a medical treatment, individualized and chemical. Social policy has been pushed out of the picture. The issue involved, anxiety or depression, no longer is perceived as a rational response to social conditions and social suffering, but rather a pathology unrelated to public policy.

And there is nothing new in defining women as permanent carriers of womanly pathologies. The medical establishment has long been a major bastion of patriarchal control.

It is truly disappointing to see such "madness," if you'll forgive me, sweeping across Europe the way it has swept through the states. But it fits in the pattern of globalization: if we are now a global economy with global recessions and global conflicts, why shouldn't "mental illness" (and "The Pharma Solution"*) be global as well?

Big Pharma reminds me of Big Tobacco, eyeing all those foreign markets for domination, salivating. And if SocProf is correct, imagine the inroads these drug pushers, er, companies could make in Asian cultures, where women have been traditionally more subjugated.

See that image above? It's what Big Pharma executives see every night when they go to sleep.

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* I'm not sure if I just invented that phrase, but while recognizing the Hitler-esque Godwin's Law nature of the term, I can't help but think it truly indicative of what is happening.

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