Social Theory & Health

, Volume 6, Issue 4, pp 323–341 | Cite as

Sites of Somatic Subjectivity: E-scaped Mental Health Promotion and the Biopolitics of Depression

  • Simone Fullagar


The identification of depression as a global health problem has led to the proliferation of websites providing information, advice and treatment pathways. As a form of e-scaped mental health promotion, these sites mobilize different discourses of depression to improve mental health literacy, help seeking and support. This article draws upon insights from governmentality and feminist theorists to examine how a high-profile, publicly funded Australian website, Beyondblue (, discursively constitutes depression as a problem for individuals and populations, such as women. I considered how the website mobilized different forms of expertise as sources authority about depression and recovery. Although gender differences and social factors were acknowledged in relation to depressive experience, the self-certainty of biomedical language prevailed. Web users were urged to think about themselves primarily as somatic subjects with chemical deficits that required pharmacological or psychotherapeutic treatment. Although there were some discursive tensions arising from the representation of gender and depression, the website contained little critical engagement with different notions of mental health literacy. Feminist and governmentality perspectives can enable a more critical examination of how e-scaped mental health promotion initiatives actively participate in the formation of new kinds of somatic subjectivities.


depression websites mental health promotion governmentality somatic subjectivity gender 



I thank Suzy Gattuso for her thoughtful advice on an earlier draft of this paper.


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Copyright information

© Palgrave Macmillan 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  • Simone Fullagar
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of TourismLeisure, Hotel and Sport Management, Nathan campus, Griffith UniversityQueenslandAustralia

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