After the Astroworld crush the last thing people need is BetterHelp
A crush at Astroworld, the Houston music festival hosted by rapper Travis Scott, ended up killing eight people last week. In the aftermath of the tragedy, theories have taken root online that it may have been a satanic ritual. These accusations have been fuelled by the stage design, complete with an inverted cross, and the staff’s seeming nonchalance as they were informed again and again that people were being crushed in the audience. The darkness of this was compounded as it came to light that staff were instructed to refer to deceased concert goers as “smurfs.”
Then the affair became even more peculiar. Travis Scott took a long time to apologise for his role in these events. And when that apology finally came? It included a promotion: a month’s free therapy via the app BetterHelp. But don’t worry, his people reassured the sceptical, there’s no brand partnership between Travis Scott and BetterHelp.
Most of the criticism levelled at Scott focused on his ostensible desire to shirk accountability. But this is reflective of a wider problem in our culture: heartfelt apologies and human-to-human comfort are seen as inadequate when compared to professionally administered therapy. Travis Scott promoting BetterHelp might be monstrous in the face of the incredible tragedy concertgoers endured, but it also points to how reliant we have become on the get-out clause: “Maybe you should see a therapist?”
It’s not that therapy doesn’t serve a useful purpose. In the case of Astroworld, many of the attendees may well have a lot of psychological baggage that would be better unpacked with a professional. Screenshots of advice from BetterHelp’s therapists, though, don’t suggest that Travis’ fans are getting a top quality service:
It seems unlikely that the pain these victims are suffering would be assuaged by a compassionate and sincere apology from Travis Scott, a total stranger. But the society-wide acceptance that all complicated emotions must be medicalised and offloaded to a doctor is even more alienating than experiencing this kind of pain to begin with.
This kind of response is arguably even worse than simply repressing bad feelings. It says that experiences like grief are problems: to be meticulously labeled, contained to medical offices, and God willing, solved with talk therapy or medication.