Glorifying Mental Illnesses:The Effects
Over the past few years the awareness for mental illnesses has thankfully increased and many people are now stepping forward to receive the help they need and deserve in order to give themselves a better quality of life. Unfortunately the issue of people glorifying and romanticising these illnesses has also increased.
It is not only select individuals, but even companies and television and movie producers that have been taking part in creating these dangerous images regarding mental health issues and therefore feeding into the stigmas that many people already hold against sufferers. It seems like no matter where we turn these days we are met with these unrealistic portrayals of what in reality are very serious and potentially life threatening problems.
With this week being mental health awareness week I wanted to raise this issue in hopes of educating those people who perhaps don't recognise the damage this behavior has been creating.
The Input Companies have to the Issue
Shockingly there are many companies that have also taken part in this behavior by creating products featuring a variety of disorders as what they call ''offensive humour''. The image above shows just one of many of these kinds of products however there are plenty more that target other illnesses. Perhaps you have seen the popular t-shirt that has circulated its way around the internet? Or even the less than festive ''stressed, depressed but well dressed''? OCD Christmas hoodies
To those who choose to purchase these items, the statements presented are nothing more than jokes however they are not seeing the detrimental effects that result from this kind of negative portrayal of mental health issues. Not only is it disgusting that companies are making money from poking fun at peoples suffering, but through wearing these types of products and laughing at these kinds of jokes, the importance of these illnesses is diminished and therefore the stigma tied to them is perpetuated.
Imagine struggling with something every single day of your life and instead of being surrounded by support and kindness, what you see is people wearing items that make fun of and belittle what you are going through. Witnessing this would hardly make you want to come forward and ask for help for fear of being brushed off as an attention seeker or being told that your problems aren't as big of a deal as you think.
The Impact TV and Movies Have
More often than not, the attempts made by TV shows and movies at tackling the issues associated with mental illnesses actually play into the stigmas and stereotypes already set up by society instead of providing a raw and insightful documentation.
They make light of serious issues and encourage the idea that mental illnesses, self harm and suicide are beautiful, whimsical and artistic. For example, the suicide scenes are often cut up images of either a delicately made blood pool or an empty bottle of pills before the scene cuts to black and soft music plays in the background. They fail to show an accurate representation of the tragedy that suicide actually is and the aftermath that comes along with it.
These days, almost all of us are active on social media and many will have accounts on a variety of different sites rather than just one. I have noticed, particularly on Instagram and Tumblr the increase in accounts created solely to romanticise mental illnesses.
For these individuals it seems that the idea of mental illnesses are more of an aesthetic and they don't take into consideration those who actually suffer from these disorders. These pages are usually filled with dark and fanciful imagery or quotations that fail to realise how these illnesses actually work. The page owners will usually claim to suffer from nearly all mental health issues and freely admit to have never been officially diagnosed by a professional.
Don't get me wrong, I am not disputing that there are people who evidently suffer from these disorders and for whatever reason haven't been diagnosed. However what I am saying is that the labels these people are giving themselves are in the majority of cases used for nothing other than to fit in with this very disturbing trend.
What I find deeply concerning are the graphic images of self harm and severely underweight young girls and boys that are being shared in order to promote unhealthy outlets that vulnerable and impressionable individuals could become caught in. It is both disheartening and sickening to watch as people, more specifically adolescents share their tips on how to starve, purge, cut and burn and create competitions with each other that could have disastrous results.
What are the effects?
The dangers that come hand in hand with glamorising mental illnesses are extensive. Apart from overshadowing and disappropriating the mental health of true sufferers it maintains the awful stigmas which have prevented many from coming forward to ask for help in their times of real need which can have devastating consequences.
There is also the concern that by exposing young people to images that promote eating disorders, self harm and suicide we are teaching them that these are suitable and acceptable ways to cope with their problems instead of educating them otherwise.
Stopping the Problem
Sadly I don't think there is a way to truly eradicate this growing problem but I do believe there are measures we can put in place to minimise it. Through reporting the social media accounts that are encouraging others to follow suit in glamorising and romantacising mental illnesses we can decrease the number of people affected.
When it comes to companies we have the ability to boycott their creations and in doing so we are letting them know that there is no demand for these kinds of products, again decreasing the trend. Above all else, I believe that education is the most important factor in combating this problem which can be done through sharing our knowledge and experiences with others.
As always I hope you have enjoyed my article and that it has provided some insight to what I deem to be a very important issue. Please feel free to take part in the polls and leave a comment below letting me know your thoughts or share a similar experience you have faced.