It seems that people who suffer from mental illnesses have been stereotyped in every way under the sun. Whether this means that manifests as problems being stigmatized as being weird and scary, or the hottest new social media trend, victims of mental disorders appear to be judged no matter how they portray their conditions.
While such a sensitive topic is difficult to talk about, as many of the people affected are incredibly sensitive to how they are perceived by the world, the abuse of people with mental illnesses, specifically over social media, must be halted.
In the media and online, we often see portrayals of perfect mental illnesses. A beautiful girl with an eating disorder, shyly refusing a cupcake, or a boy with depression solemnly listening to punk rock in his room. Obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) being a synonym for organized, and a panic attack being resolved by the embrace of a loved one. Social media has somehow turned mental health problems into a trend that people want to be a part of. In reality, mental illnesses are not desirable or beautiful. It can be ugly, painful to watch, and can cause all sorts of harm in a person’s life. It can mean teeth stained from vomiting, scars that last you a lifetime, and not showering for days on end because it seems impossible to get out of bed.
Of course we want people to feel accepted and loved, no matter what they are dealing with. People who suffer from mental disorders are still beautiful and strong, but the important aspect that is often overlooked is that this is in spite of their issues, not because of them. Glorifying the symptoms that are easy to look at will not help anybody. It is crucial that we speak of mental health in a clear and direct way. These are problems, issues, illnesses, and not personality quirks that you learn to love.
When watching these historically ridiculous distortions of what mental illness truly is, one cannot help but question what it is that makes society so unable to accept those suffering from mental health issues. While we may never have an answer to this question, the ever-growing presence of mental health problems in society is not helping. Around 56.7% of adults in the US suffer from undiagnosed mental illnesses, and much of that has to do with the amount of stigma associated with them. This issue is becoming a normalized part of our culture.
However, it could be incredibly dangerous to allow people to accept their mental illness. We must encourage that people fight against this block that is holding them back from being the best that they can be, rather than pretending that mental illness makes you special or strong.
It is certainly not easy to talk about, given that, while certain online forums seem to glorify it, there is still a large percentage of people who feel ashamed of their mental disorder and are not accepted by their community.
We must find a balancing point that can portray mental illness in both directions.