Why are we romanticising mental illness?
It’s not desirable, and it needs to stop
We live in a generation where mental health issues are so romanticised they seem to have become desirable. It’s the uncomfortable truth.
Mental health issues are real, and they ruin lives. This is a fact nobody can dispute, and I don’t want to try. However I am well and truly fed up of seeing a generation of people become more and more open to the idea that having a panic attack is cute, that if you don’t sleep well one night then you’re an insomniac, which means you’re some kind of a genius and that eating disorders are tragically beautiful, because they’re not.
These illnesses are exactly as they are described – they are illnesses. They are life consuming, people who genuinely suffer with them often find them embarrassing and near impossible to talk about, but so many people these days seem to think of them as some kind of quirky personality traits that make them more special and somehow desirable.
Last year I was talking to a couple of girls outside of Uni and the subject got onto depression and honestly it became like a competition – each girl seemed to want to out-depress the other, but it saddens me neither of them could see in that kind of competition, nobody can actually win. They were both upping and upping the auntie constantly: “well my psychiatrist says I am the most severe case he’s seen”, “oh hun that’s horrible… my psychiatrist says I’ll need to go on some kind of medication”. The conversation just went on and on, they were flaunting depression and anxiety like they were these super cool exclusive club badges.
But it’s no wonder our generation are so confused about mental health disorders. All over social media I constantly see stuff like black and white pictures of beautiful women crying into their hands with cryptic messages about being depressed. They all just make it seem like a mental illness is just a really sexy frame of mind, like you’re just so deep and broody and everyone will love you for it. They have become a replacement for having a personality for some people, where in reality people with actual mental health problems are shying away from the world, too scared to speak out.
It seems like the movement to de-stigmatise mental illness has grown so much it’s gone too far the other way, and now they have become confused with something that young people should aspire to. As though if you don’t consider yourself depressed then you don’t feel things deeply enough. This glorification of mental health issues really becomes a problem when somebody with a genuine illness logs onto Tumblr and sees strings and strings of posts that promote self-harm as a form of art, and suicide makes you this immortally beautiful soul. Posts like this one.
Picture this: you’re young, deeply depressed and lonely; you log onto social media looking for some help, someone to talk to, and your greeted with post like this one. Posts that make suicide look like some kind of beautiful and tragic art form, and it makes you feel like maybe this is a valid possibility, a solution to your problems. And that is exactly why I think the romanticisation of mental illnesses is a serious problem we need to address, because some people may be reposting this crap to get some attention and sympathy, but then there are some people out there who will see this as their only option.