At Anam Cara Counseling, we recognize that physical location has a significant impact on mental health. Acknowledging the impact of place on our well-being allows us to disentangle the effects of our social sphere on our thought processes and emotions.
Those of us who have lived in the Bay Area are aware of the vast social discrepancies and unique pressures of Silicon Valley. There are numerous ways this can influence our understanding of self and how we relate to others. Let’s explore mental health in the Bay area together:
1. A diverse and changing cultural landscape
Mental health in the Bay area is complex, given its’ variety of universities, workplaces, and people. There is a richness inherent in the tapestry of nationalities and life experiences. Yet, the instability and transience of life in the Bay naturally creates a sensation of tenuousness in our workplaces, our relationships, and our identity. This is often reflected more practically in the sense that it can be challenging to make friends and cement roots in such a transient environment. A limited depth of social experiences can certainly serve as a challenge to our mental health; humans are naturally social creatures, and close, deep relationships enable that essential feeling of connection. Being aware of this challenge will allow you to thoughtfully cultivate relationships; recognizing the impermanence of geographical proximity can increase our willingness to explore and engage richly when we have the ability to do so.
2. The omnipresence of tech culture
The influence of big tech is pervasive and subtle, impacting mental health in the Bay area. Many perceive a sense of freedom and innovation that allows for creative energy to flow. For others, it’s ubiquity can feel stifling, especially if you feel like an outsider looking in. For all of us, the effects of living in the Bay Area Bubble influence our perception. In a culture driven by optimization, it can be difficult to let go of “do” and instead to just “be.” Many experiences that would otherwise be regarded as natural processes can become dissected transactionally, cultivated with regard to outcomes rather than experienced holistically. This often impacts our ability to relate authentically. Dates are scrutinized for compatibility, as if we can find the perfect algorithm for romance. Even friendships are viewed with an economists’s lens: where do I benefit? What is the cost? Dissecting the pros and cons of relationships can often be a helpful exercise; but the benefits of existence often lies in the experience itself.
3. Social discrepancies and gentrification
It would be foolish to acknowledge tech culture and ignore the inequities that also impact mental health in the Bay area. In a male dominated field, those who identify as other genders may feel excluded or patronized in the workplace. Those who work outside tech, or make less than the whopping $130,000 annual median income are pushed out and neglected. The efforts of tech companies to mitigate this damage often feel well-intentioned, but fall flat. This creates a fractured society, those on the margins may feel justified resentment and significant anxiety over economic and social concerns. Those within may feel guilt or shame when examining their place in society, or alternatively anger and resentment when they feel implicated.
These tensions are not easy to navigate, and complex problems require complex solutions. Our place at Anam Cara is to serve as a space to air your concerns with nonjudgmental and caring therapists. Perhaps you need someone to talk these frustrations through with, perhaps you want to unravel how these circumstances impact your mental health. In therapy, all these concerns are welcome.