Monday, March 30, 2020
"If you want to help people, you've come to the wrong place."
Words from a fellow volunteer at a mental health charity. Maybe a lot of psychologists are hung up on trying to change the world, while still ignoring the elephant in the room of global inequity.
A recent tweet has accused mainstream psychology by and large of individualising a largely social phenomenon (i.e. the spread of coronavirus). (It has the near-obligatory reference to ab/using mindfulness as a means to calm the masses down, when they could be energised to change their material conditions). Coronavirus might not care how much money you have, but you're more likely to catch it if you're sharing a rented three-bedroom house with four other lodgers. Indeed, there's been some debate online about the role of behavioural science in general at this time.
Nonetheless, we are all individuals, and practical advice on not touching your face with your hands, reducing cabin fever etc. etc. has utility. But at least we should be careful about trying to save the day when this is a chance for other disciplines (epidemiology, respiratory medicine) to shine.
For those of us who aren't embroiled in the frontline of dealing with the fallout, there's more time for reflection. A re-tweet of the tweet mentioned above suggests that mainstream psychology has not only internalised neoliberalism, but ignored the material conditions around us. When we're all stuck indoors, seeing how our environment conditions can change quite rapidly, this could be a time to consider how we can take more ecological approach to psychology. This need not just apply to critical social psychology, but is relevant for mental health, cognition and other facets of the study of ourselves.
So what? The breadth and depth of research impact
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