Whitney M. Fishburn reports that she has trademarked the phrase “herd immunity to anxiety and depression”, and after I gave it something of a raised eyebrow earlier this month, I still don’t know quite what to make of it.
In addition, I have developed several projects focused on how to strengthen what I have trademarked with the US patent office as “herd immunity to anxiety and depression”. Herd immunity is what population health experts say when they mean that enough people are vaccinated against an infectious disease that it makes it difficult for the disease to spread.
I am applying this population health approach to mental health. It’s rooted in what I see as having a practical understanding that as our anxieties and fears rise, there just are not going to be enough mental health experts to help counsel our way out.
Fishburn says that “the skilled use of stories is our vaccination against anxiety, depression, and suicide”, and I don’t want my eyebrow-raising to suggest that I dismiss this idea out of hand, because I guess I don’t? Certainly I’d have to agree that “stories matter” and that “[w]e can derive real meaning for our lives from them”.
What I can’t tell is whether Fishburn means all of these things in a legitimately helpful and human way or in a grifting and potentially dangerous “woo-woo” Marianne Williamson kind of way. Fishburn’s “five states of mind” really could take us in either direction.
I guess what makes sense to me is that story could provide herd immunity against the stigmatization of anxiety, depression, and other mental health concerns, but how do stories do anything when the anxiety or depression at issue, say, really should be addressed through medication?