UK Mental Health Awareness Week took place from Monday 10th to the 16th of May in 2021. Since this week is Mental health awareness week,
I thought It would be an excellent idea to call out the romanticism of mental illnesses and break down some stigmas!
(I intend to create a post that will not only inform but educate you guys)
I have spoken to people with Mental illnesses & research to increase the validity of this post.
The Romanticism of Mental Illnesses
In our society, More and more Mental illnesses are not only being romanticised but depicted incorrectly by Films, TV series ( Example '13 Reasons Why' - Don't even get me started on that scene! ) and social media. While some Media depict mental illnesses accurately and let viewers see how real they are whilst being educative such as "Euphoria" for example. Others may have that same intention however the viewers are left with the wrong impression and those with mental illnesses can be depicted as extremely violent, unintelligent, or incapable of making decisions that profoundly impact their lives. This is incredibly harmful as it creates stigmas and those undergoing mental illnesses are then at a higher risk of being misunderstood and their struggles being taken less seriously.
There are multiple mental illnesses just as there are multiple physical ones and social media tends to romanticise or depict them incorrectly. This means unfortunately, some people make them appear so fascinating to the point the concept of having a mental disorder becomes attractive!
Even as far as to make aesthetics out of mental illnesses. The oxford language defines Aesthetic as " concerned with beauty or the appreciation of beauty."
There is nothing beautiful about having a mental illness.
Most of the time, Anxiety and Depression are discussed within mainstream media and other outlets leaving other mental illnesses to be even more stigmatised simply because of the lack of information and awareness given to them. Because of this many of us are accustomed to having the wrong perception of these illnesses. (This is my motivation for this blog post.)
Thankfully some artists and advocates are also breaking stigmas to multiple mental illnesses. One of my favourites is Artist Shawn coss as his amazing "Inktober illness series " Illustrations depict how raw mental illnesses are.
I truly hope that as time progresses this trend of romanticising mental illnesses on various social media platforms like Instagram, Tiktok and Tumblr stop too because they genuinely affect people who are suffering and create stigmas which are then just an added reason as to why people suffer in silence. Mental health issues don't discriminate and they can affect anyone!
Let's break the misconceptions of Mental Illnesses
Okay, that brings me on to my first misconception.
- Mental illnesses are a choice!
Mental illnesses are not decisions and are very real. People going through them won't wish them on even their worst enemy. Trust me, No one wakes up wanting to have a mental illness. So people need to stop behaving like it's a decision because it's not and if someone is genuinely reaching out and asking for help because they are choosing to confide in you with such a serious issue you should not label them as attention-seeking.
Look now I kinda get it, I know it must be hard to comprehend that your friend who sounds so confident has anxiety or that classmate who just always seems to be smiling is dealing with depression. But even if this is the case please be compassionate because so many people suffer in silence and don't open up because of how they fear they might be perceived and this is so heartbreaking to me especially considering the severity of some mental illnesses! (Also, saying that someone's mental health is invalid can contribute to it worsening and leave the person questioning)
2. Just snap out of it!
Many experiencing mental health issues tend to get tips and advice
from their friends and family. Although most of these are extremely genuinely helpful to these people, some can seem helpful when in reality they are more harmful than anything. Also, Such as being told "it's all in your head" (Like come on, seriously that's the point) another unhelpful phrase is "It could be worse".This is one of the most harmful things you can tell someone in all circumstances not even just regarding mental illness and more people need to be aware that your experience is your experience! (So, as much as you can sympathise with people going through "worse" it doesn't change the fact that you have what you have, good and bad.)
I definitely think this point is important as it can change your perspective on some phrases that may seem helpful when in fact aren't.
More examples include “Snap out of it!”, “Everyone is a little down/moody/OCD sometimes – it's normal.”
3. Stop overreacting!
Again Like physical illnesses, mental illnesses don't look the same for everyone and they have different severities this means that just because someones mental illness isn't as severe as someone else it shouldn't be taken less seriously or disregarded especially considering that when mental illnesses aren't treated fast enough the symptoms can get worse. This is another reason why it is so important to take people seriously. Especially considering some people with mental illnesses tend to downplay, doubt or don't understand what they're feeling or experiencing themselves. Everyone's feelings are valid and asking someone "why" they are behaving in a certain way when they have accomplished ... / reminded that people have less ... can come across as disrespectful.
Although, With that being said there is nothing wrong with trying to get to the route of someone's mental illness (With their consent of course!) just try to be patient and understanding when listening and not insensitive.
Finally, I guess the main message I want to leave you with after reading this post is to be more mindful because in society many people are mental health advocates and that's amazing! However, in day to day life, a lot of people don't realise how impactful their words and actions can be in response to someone undergoing a mental health issue. I do think mental health should be spoken about more frequently.
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