Mental Illness is just a Trend
That’s right, you read that right. I, Alex Davies, founder of a website that promotes mental health awareness and support, just said that mental illness is just a trend. Do I really believe that? Of course not! That said, it’s an interesting topic to consider. Take a walk with me as I unpack it.
Over the past few years, we’ve seen an increase in people being diagnosed with mental health issues. Now, this could be partly due to the increases in external pressures and triggers, as some people would say, or it could be a greater awareness and openness for mental health. In the past, mental health was not something that was widely talked about. You kept it hidden. It wasn’t heard of. Out of sight, out of mind, that sort of thing. Nowadays, however, it’s more widely talked about. So is it that it is on the increase or is it just that more people are talking about it? That’s something for the philosophers to debate.
What I’d like to know, though, is whether or not the epidemic is as bad as it seems or whether it is “just a trend”. (Note that my opinion will come at the bottom, so you’ll have to read on to find it!)
So is mental health a trend that people follow? Are the people who claim to have mental health issues genuine? From where I sit, I see three immediate categories that we can put this into:
- Genuine Sufferers
- People who don’t quite get it
- The social media hype types
This is exactly what it says on the tin: people who are genuinely suffering with some form of mental illness. They have those day-to-day issues that hinder them, whether that’s getting out of bed, looking after themselves or being unable to leave the house. Their struggles are real, their issues hamper their everyday activities and they clearly have some form of mental illness. Note, these are not always diagnosed as, for some, they cannot make themselves go to the doctor but many of them will have been diagnosed. They might be on medication and they may be undergoing therapy or they may be managing it with alternative means. Nevertheless, they are struggling.
For genuine sufferers, they face a wall of stigma and judgement that often prevents them from expressing how they truly feel. They keep it buried inside, fearing that other people would be harshly critical of them or simply not know how to express it.
People Who Don’t Get It
These are probably the most multitudinous that I’ve come across. You’ve seen them, I’m sure. The people who post statuses like: “I have to wait a whole year for more Game of Thrones, I’m so depressed!” In reality, they aren’t depressed, they’re just a little sad, but they blow it out of proportion. How often do we see it? Far too often, I think!
Why am I picking up on this group? Well, I believe it simply adds to the fog of stigma and judgement around us. If we can see they’re not really depressed, others can see through it too and it just builds up this wishy-washy idea of what depression actually is. By associating it with the word, it can create that false image that others will then believe. For all we know, it could be where this “just snap out of it” rubbish came from…
We see it a lot, though, don’t we: the ones who over-exaggerate this sort of thing. People who give themselves labels without taking that moment to understand what it means. What is depression? What is anxiety? Is it what they make it out to be – being “anxious for school exams” or “depressed because the latest season of Game of Thrones has ended” – or is it something more?
The Social Media Hype Trend
As I’ve mentioned previously, I do a lot of interactions on Twitter and on other social media sites and I now notice patterns in some of the things that go up. The most common example is the number of people who post things online – particularly photos – and appear to be fishing for compliments. Comments like “I’m so ugly” or “I’m no good at anything” or “I’m so fat, I need to diet” and other such things are frequent posts. The photos that are coupled with them, however, more often than not, contradict what is being said. Like I said: it’s almost as if they’re fishing for compliments.
Now believe me, this isn’t always the case. Insecurity is a horrible thing and it might be that they just want someone to give them that reassurance. However, it’s possible that some do it just for the compliments. If social media makes it “trendy”, everyone wants to get involved.
Over to you…what do you think? Do you think I’m right or do you think I’m wrong? Let me know by leaving a comment. I’m interested in getting a discussion going here.
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