The romanticisation of mental illnesses

Semilore Orotope Paul, Staff Writer

The internet may be a valuable resource for learning new things and connecting with people who share your concerns, interests, and hobbies. It can, however, be a very dark place that exploits its users and romanticises a variety of illnesses and disorders that aren’t normally glorified.

Recently, I’ve noticed a rise in the media talking about mental health illnesses and placing their audience in the shoes of those who suffer from these illnesses in order to raise awareness, but with all beneficial developments, there are also drawbacks. Yes, the media has made it easier for people to relate their experiences with mental diseases, and yes, stereotypes are broken, but characterising mental illnesses as “so awful but beautiful” almost has the opposite impact.

The content uploaded to social media applications like Tiktok, YouTube, and Tumblr has made it look like mental illness is cool, trendy, and in fashion. When mental health problems are portrayed as “beautiful,” “edgy,” or “cool,” it could lead users and younger audiences to believe that being depressed makes them cool and beautiful.

 

 

I have seen the phrase “trauma adds flavour” on social media . This phrase suggests that trauma is a personality trait. There is a difference between embracing, accepting, or treating mental illnesses and romanticising them as a personality trait.  Here’s the deal: depression isn’t cool and quirky. It makes the lives of those who have it more difficult. Trauma isn’t what builds character, so glamorising it won’t have the positive outlook that many might think it does. Mental disorders are not an “aesthetic” and treating them as such could invalidate individuals’ experiences. Another consequence of romanticising mental health concerns is that it can make those who suffer from them feel marginalised and disregarded. It is neither appropriate nor fair to speak about them in a way that invalidates the problems they face.

 

Another trend that I’ve noticed on the internet is quizzes and tests that are supposed to tell you what mental disease you have. The most popular test I’ve seen on TikTok is an “anger issue test”, which asks you to answer 38 questions and then compares your answers to the population average. The test isn’t reliable and shouldn’t be used for diagnostic purposes, but people seem to be using it as if it is a tool for self-diagnosis, which is unhealthy and could lead to people believing they have anger issues. The advice that you could receive from TikTok does not have the same credibility as speaking to actual doctors and psychologists.

 

We cannot ignore the harmful and beneficial effects of social media, but if we work together to recognise the differences between romanticisation and acceptance, we may assist to dispel myths about mental health issues. Instead of romanticising mental health issues we should be focused on having honest conversations with others about why it is so harmful.

 

If you are dealing with any mental problems know you are not alone, and please reach out. Either through your advisors, teachers, family and friends or even childline.