Many recent incidents have stirred up the topic of mental health and the stigma attached to it. Social media is a powerful tool to discuss such crucial topics, break the stigma that revolves around mental illness, and bring about a need to address the struggles of the people experiencing a mental health issues. An additional advantage that the internet offers is to maintain the anonymity of a person. It can be encouraging to talk to someone on the other side of the world, who is going through similar issues. As much as we need to bring awareness to mental health, we must make sure that we are not romanticizing and glorifying mental illness.
Do you ever feel like people describe mental illness as something that is “tragically beautiful”, edgy, or even cool?
Romanticizing a mental illness occurs when a mental disorder is portrayed as glamorous or better than what it is. This is primarily a problem of platforms like Tumblr or Instagram where some people portray mental health illness in a very problematic way. They may describe the pain as something pretty that completely disregards the struggles and reality of a mental illness. The romanticization of mental illness is an awful attempt at making mental illness ‘beautiful’. This trend portrays mental illness as something unique, ‘edgy’ and ‘cool’.
It is hard to decipher the experience and struggles of people who go through mental health issues, without stepping in their shoes. Just like any other illness or disease, mental illness requires proper diagnosis and treatment.
Television shows, movies, and posts on social media falsely portray what mental illnesses are like, where having depression, anxiety, or other types of mental illnesses is seen as cool. The popularity of such movies and shows is even shown to increase the self-harm and suicide rates in teenagers.
Romanticization creates a glamorous and fancy portrayal of mental illness, and social media is the main culprit behind it. It sometimes creates a distorted image of mental health that is sometimes appealing to people, making it an ‘aesthetic’. There are a lot of problems that arise when this is done.
Firstly, teenagers might make fake claims of having a mental disorder because they desire to have one. Influenced by social media, they begin to associate mental illness with everyday moods and events. Depression is not “feeling sad and tired”, it is a debilitating condition. Skipping meals is not anorexia and having a bad sleeping schedule is not insomnia. Such comparisons reduce the seriousness of these issues. These mental illnesses don’t make you seem quirky or glamourous and claiming to have them without proper diagnosis and consultation with a mental health professional will not make you more popular and desirable in your social circles.
Secondly, when mental conditions are glorified, it reinforces and contributes to the stigma associated with the topic. Rather than breaking the stigma, romanticization causes greater misunderstanding and creates false ideas. It invalidates the experiences of people who suffer from mental health conditions which can be distressing and an isolating ordeal for them.
You might have come across pictures with flowers and someone with scars or cuts on their arms or body that quote “Scars are beautiful”. Posts like these start justifying and even encouraging self-harm, rather than educating about the need to seek help.
Thirdly, the trend of romanticization of mental illness encourages suicide and self-harm. Suicide is often seen as a viable choice that people can opt to “get out of their lives”. People who die from suicide are not angels, they are people who need help and it is our responsibility to provide them with treatment and not present suicide as an acceptable choice.
We all should take a collective step to stop romanticizing mental illness. Glorifying the term shifts the focus away from the actual issue and can trigger many people who suffer from mental illness. There is a need to start an honest conversation on mental health to break the stigma that surrounds it as well as to stop romanticizing it in any manner. By telling people that mental illness is unique and beautiful we as a society are encouraging them not to seek help.
A WORD FROM SOCIALLY SOULED
By definition- mental illness is a condition that causes serious disorder in a person's behavior or thinking. Sure, mental illness is not something to be frowned upon, however, it is also not something that you should consider having without a proper diagnosis from a mental health professional. Just because you are feeling sad momentarily or for a few hours, does not mean that you have a depressive disorder.
Here’s the deal – mental illness is not ‘beautiful’ and it does not make you more attractive. It is an extremely distressing experience that affects people’s life, relationships, family, and abilities. Mental illness is not something to be glorified, it is a painful physiological and psychological experience like any other illness. Be careful of the things you choose to be influenced by.