BLOGTOBER Day 7: The marketability of mental health

Mental Health

This is a blog post that I started writing during last year’s Blogtober, but never published. It’s still supremely relevant, though, so I’m unleashing it on the masses today. Let me know what you think: if you enjoy this investigation, I’ll follow it up with a more recent version.  

Why does mental health cost so much?

A counsellor recently suggested that I explore the art of mindfulness as a way to deal with my depression, stress and anxiety. I privately scoffed – mindfulness sounds like one of those hippie-dippie fake cures – but I took her advice on board and started researching it, trying to see what about mindfulness appealed to the masses.

The only thing I really found out is that it’s bloody expensive.

The books:

I work in a library, so I borrowed all of them completely free. But for someone who doesn’t have a library in their area or doesn’t have the time because of other commitments, it’s a costly thing to purchase.
I searched Mindfulness on Amazon, and filtered the search by the average customer review (assuming that the buyer will want proof from other customers that the book is worth purchasing).
The top results?

  1. The Wise Heart: Buddist Psychology For The West‘ by Jack Kornfield – £14.88 paperback, £9.99 Kindle eBook
  2. True Meditation‘ by Adyashanti and Tami Simon – £18.99 hardback, £8.54 Kindle eBook
  3. The Mindful Way Through Stress‘ by Shamash Alidina – £11.77 paperback, £8.19 Kindle eBook
  4. The Buddha in Me, the Buddha in You: a Handbook for Happiness‘ by David Hare – £12.08 paperback, £8.99 Kindle eBook
  5. Everyday Enlightenment‘ by His Holiness The Gyalwang Drukpa – £12.99 paperback, £9.49 Kindle eBook

I could go on. It takes a long time to reach a book on mindfulness that costs less than £10.Yes, this is partly because publishers choose to charge more for non-fiction titles – they’ve always cost more than novels, and this is something that’s unlikely to change.
But surely if the books are designed to help those in need, to make their lives more bareable, they shouldn’t need to pay such extravagant costs for the advice?

Then you get to the mindfulness apps.
I don’t have an iPhone, so I can’t tell you if the offerings are better on the Apple store, but the “free apps” available on the Google Play store have internal costs that seem ludicrous to me. (I’m not discussing the apps that you need to purchase, because you know there is a cost when you choose to download them).

Headspace:

Headspace offers a free ten day mindfulness trial, so you can decide whether mindfulness is something that will work for you. After those ten days, unless you want to play through the ten free mindfulness tracks again and again – having them become less effective with each experience – you need to subscribe to unlock the rest of the content.
If you’d like to unlock all of Headspace’s content forever, you’ll need to pay £249.85.
Can’t manage that? If you’d like to sign up for two years, it’ll be £3.74 a month. Just one year? £4.99 a month. If you’re not ready for a commitment, you can always pay £7.95 a month (or, as I like to think of it, the cost of two days travel to and from work).

An unhappy solution: 

I can afford these prices, but for thousands of people even spending this amount a month would be too high to justify. Their mental health will suffer, because it’s being used as a money-making scheme.
The national living wage was introduced in April, raising the minimum yearly incomes of many employees to £15,000. But with a company CEO announcing that he believes you need £30,000 a year to be happy, these people are earning half that amount. If you’re investigating mindfulness, it implies that you aren’t the happiest that you believe you could be, and based off of these statistics I believe money has a lot to do with that unhappiness.

Unhappiness is linked to depression, stress and anxiety, supported by research claiming that there was a 37% increase in working people seeking stress-related support. Yes, that’s in Canada, but doesn’t that just prove that stress is an epidemic unhindered by borders? 17 million working days were lost due to stress in the UK in 2015, and 43% of Americans working in retail admit that their job negatively impacts their stress levels.

Luckily, a lot of places offer free mindfulness courses. Sadly, taking the time off of work to attend those courses also has a cost. That’s not considering a country like the US, where physical health care is almost impossible to afford. Why would someone who can’t afford antibiotics bother spending money to make their mind a healthier place?

Let’s discuss: 

Do you think more work should be done to make self-help affordable? Or do you think people are well within their rights to demand these sums for their research? Leave your comments down below.