Mental health awareness has been brought to our society’s attention and is no longer something people brush under the rug hoping that it’ll go away (at least not all the time). However, along with this awareness comes many negative aspects. It has become increasingly prevalent how mental illnesses are “romanticized”. To define ‘romanticise’; it means “deal with or describe in an idealized or unrealistic fashion; make (something) seem better or more appealing than it really is.” Now commonly when you think of ‘mental illness’, romanticise is one of the last words that would come to mind. Yet, in our society, mental illnesses are (sometimes) made out to be a lovely thing, when this is so obviously not the case.
I, personally, spend a lot of time on the internet, but often times, I spend a substantial amount of time on Tumblr. There’s are millions of people who genuinely enjoy scrolling through Tumblr. The website caters to all interests: there are fandoms for tv shows or books, aesthetically pleasing photos, writers, artists, you name it. Tumblr is a popular social media site where many users are able to share their creativity and interests with other people. However, like almost everything, there is a bad side of Tumblr. I don’t even have to scroll through Tumblr for two minutes before coming across a picture of pills, the immediate aftermath of self harm, or a scale saying “Not thin enough” and if you keep scrolling there are these “pockets” of Tumblr that, on the surface, appear to be sad blogs used as a means of catharsis, yet that is simply not all they are. (I’m not pointing any fingers at Tumblr or Tumblr users, this is just the plainest example to help put things into perspective) Not too long ago there was a tag trending entitled #ProAna and #Thinspiration, many communities were getting together and making anorexia seem like a good thing, when, on the contrary, anorexia is a very serious eating disorder that has killed many people. These blogs were reblogging pictures of really thin people as their “thinspiration” and many wrote about how to quickly lose weight and gave tips on how to easily make yourself throw up. The fashion these blogs and users have been portraying these illnesses is nothing short of disturbing.
On an average day, I hear the terms “depressed”, “OCD”, and “anxious” thrown around a lot. Recently, I’ve noticed how depression, anxiety, and OCD (to name a few) have been minimized to simply being down, nervous, or picky and therein lies the central problem. People have continuously begun to minimize the severity of these specific mental disorders and they’ve been reduced to nothing more than “cute” mental illnesses that people can “dabble” in. Yet, as soon as someone mentions “schizophrenia” or “borderline personality disorder” people immediately back off and think “Woah man, too far”, because both schizophrenia and borderline remain perfectly valid disorders. This way of thinking and reacting makes some illnesses seem more serious than others, and that is simply not how they should be thought of. Minimizing mental illnesses not only makes mental illnesses seem unimportant but also makes the people affected by mental illnesses feel as if their experiences with these illnesses are melodramatic and invalid.
In the end, what this all boils down to is consumption. So, we all need to be more careful about the way we say things, or what we reblog. Feeding into the invalidation of mental illnesses will only make the situation worse than it previously was. We’re all consumers and we need to be smarter about what we are taking in.