We need to stop romanticizing mental health issues on social media. Destigmatization and romanticization are not the same thing and they shouldn’t be intermingled like they are now.
We’ve crossed a line. The issue with the romanticization of mental health issues is that it completely warps how we see certain illnesses into a way that is seen as ‘admirable’ or even sought after. It also delegitimizes the struggles of the people who are actually diagnosed with illnesses such as depression.
Depression is one of the most common mental illnesses in the United States. Because of this, it has gained a lot of faux popularity on social media. The symptoms of depression can include a persistent sad or “empty” mood, fatigue, slow moving/talking, difficultly sleeping, pessimism, and so many more. The symptoms of depression are now trivialized and many people are self-diagnosing themselves because they may have felt one of them. For example, one might feel sad for a while and assume they have depression because of how the symptoms are portrayed on social media.
This isn’t what depression looks like. Depression can look like someone having troubling eating or sleeping. Depression can look like having consistent aches in your body without a physical cause. Self-diagnosis is still a trend that is extremely popular among youth on social media who don’t have the correct resources on depression. The issue with self-diagnosis is that it can lead to teens worsening their own conditions. I personally believe that the trend of self-diagnosis rose up because of the casual nature in which depression is spoken about.
Depression is talked about too nonchalantly. Depression is showcased as something that is just a mere discussion topic and not a legitimate and severe mental illness. One could easily find a post that romanticizes depression in a way that makes it seem beautiful and admirable. Phrases such as “Her eyes ran out of tears to shed, so she forced her skin to cry instead,” are prime examples of how social media has sensationalized depression.
Depression is not something that can be encompassed into a one lined poem. It is a real and serious illness that should be talked about with substance and extensive knowledge. If the only source of knowledge that we gain on any mental illness is through social media, then we are bound to romanticize it more and more. The type of posts made about depression can lead to people trying to relate to having a mental illness that is far more complex than what they see on social media.
Social media has turned dealing with depression into a secret V.I.P club. The posts made about depression that romanticize it are essentially advertisements that draw in impressionable people. One may see a post and believe that having a mental illness is what makes someone interesting. This leads to more impressional people believing that depression is interesting, instead of a serious illness. Now we also have the issue of people who aren’t dealing with any of the symptoms of depression trying to relate themselves to the constant battle that people with depression go through. Since depression is seen as beautiful on social media, many people find themselves drawn to what the illness entails.
This can have detrimental effects on the people who actually suffer from depression. If more and more people without depression try to self-diagnosis themselves in order to join the community, it will dilute the real experience of depression. Everyone wants to fit in and understand the brooding poems or self-deprecating jokes so they try to shove themselves into “having these symptoms." The lure of wanting to be “interesting” combined with the rise of self-diagnosis is a dangerous mixture. It simultaneously dilutes and glorifies the symptoms of depression on a large scale.
Instead of sharing posts that romanticize depression, social media users should band together to push out useful information and resources about it. Resources such as the Student Psychological Services (SPS) are a great way to find valid information on depression and other common mental illnesses. An example of a good post could be one where resources are shared about how to deal with the symptoms of depression. We can successfully destigmatize depression without going too far and romanticizing it. Because in the end, depression is a serious mental illness; not a beautiful thing, nor a secret club.
This is the opinion of Aker Ajak, a freshman political science major from Omaha, Nebraska. Email comments to email@example.com. Follow and tweet comments to @LALoyolan on Twitter, and like the Loyolan on Facebook.