The Age of Global Apathy
by Jessa Westheimer
The goal of this project was to explore an imagined end-of-the-world narrative caused by the commercialization of happiness. Mental health, especially during a global pandemic, is often elusive. People may try different therapies and medications only to be lost in themselves or a worse mental state than when they began. The Age of Global Apathy considers a world where the seemingly perfect mental health panacea has been developed. Serotone can cure any sort of emotional or mood deficiency, quickly transitioning from prescription medication to Shark Tank product and eventually, universal beauty staple. While these advertisements laud the entirely beneficial qualities of this miracle product, something more sinister is underway as the pitfalls of this cure are glazed over in favor of profit.
The successful marketing of Serotone ensures humanity becomes dependent on feeling okay all the time and ceases to feel anything at all, bringing about the Age of Global Apathy, an age of worldwide unfeeling because every person can feel only good.
My purpose in creating this film was to compel the viewer to consider the impact commercialization has on their mental health. As someone who has struggled with various mental health disorders throughout my life, I found it important to weigh how much the world I live in could affect the way I view myself, and ultimately cease to view myself. I hope this project will not dissuade people from seeking mental health care but rather cause consideration of systems that profit from mental illness.
Furthermore, one of my research interests is the effect of socio-cultural factors on mental health. Commercialization only benefits minorities when it is profitable. Translational neuroscience research is the foundation for more nuanced mental health care, and presently many communities remain underrepresented in our study of the brain. Ninety percent of fMRI neuroimaging data comes from people from Western countries. A goal of this project is also to raise awareness for the lack of representation in basic brain research to call for a more equitable patient recruitment standard thereby making strides to improve global mental health care.
Jessa Westheimer is a senior majoring in Neurobiology and Art with a minor in Media Design at Carnegie Mellon University. With her work, Jessa explores the intersection between commercialization, socio-cultural environment, and mental health research. Additionally, she is interested in representation in scientific research and its relationship with accessibility to suitable mental health care interventions.