Mental Health: A Reality, Not a Fantasy

Nearly everyone has heard, or even been guilty of saying something that romanticizes mental illnesses. This is because society has told us that attempting to make these types of issues appear “quirky” or “cute”  is following the trend.

Although it is not always intentional or blatant,  this type of behavior is shown even through seemingly small actions, such as saying things like, “Oh my, I’m so OCD,” when trying  to keep things neat, or saying, “I’m so depressed,” after getting a C on a test. OCD is used as an adjective which is not the correct use of the term, and being disappointed in a grade is not nearly the same as depression.

Though these types of phrases may seem harmless or innocent, they take a toll on the way society thinks of mental illnesses and how serious people take them. When it becomes normal to say that one has a disorder that they don’t, the actual condition is taken lightly with people who genuinely need help.

Eventually, people don’t treat each other with the support they need during their struggles because it’s easy for them to say, “these days, everyone is depressed,” or “everybody overreacts when they’re a little stressed.”

“Meme culture” has influenced millennials and Gen Z greatly, as social media portrays wanting to die or being psycho as being funny. The majority of these people making or reposting these types of memes aren’t actually mentally ill, which only makes people who are, blend in.

Not only is the humorous type of romanticization prominent on the internet, but there’s also been a trend of an “edgy” and “dreary” aesthetic that some young adolescents aspire to have. This is often found on Tumblr and Instagram, predominantly made by girls or celebrities who seek attention and validation through pity. Melanie Martinez’s “Crybaby” theme in her music and Lana Del Rey’s “I’d die without my abusive partner” type lyrics are perfect examples of using unhealthy mindsets and portraying them as “trendy.”

Take “13 Reasons Why,” for example: a story of a girl who essentially committed suicide as revenge for kids who treated her badly. The show pushes the agenda that after her death, people suddenly considered her beautiful because of what happened to her. This promotes the idea that her suicide was what made people think highly of her, and does not accurately portray suicidal ideology.

Though many people may watch the show with ease and don’t think twice about the message it’s sending, it has a strong effect on those struggling with the same issues that were so inaccurately applied to these characters. It doesn’t show depression as an intense, real struggle that people battle with; rather, a girl angry about things people said about her and who felt the need to place guilt on them.

Book, movie, and TV characters alike are somehow considered more likable because of their “tragic” and frankly, watered down, version of a mental illness.

Everybody thinks Sheldon from “The Big Bang Theory” is so funny because of his OCD-like tendencies such as always needing to sit on his side of the couch or else he’ll be upset. But they would never show the side of him breaking down and panicking if he doesn’t knock on Penny’s door three times. Why? The answer is simple: creators of media use the concept of mental illness as a personality trait to add to a character, but would never show the less socially acceptable, painful parts of the person’s experience.

This is completely unfair to the large numbers of people who struggle with a variety of mental illnesses who have to watch and hear about these versions of disorders that don’t represent all different ways people experience them.

Romanticizing mental illnesses affects people deeply, and it is a toxic habit that needs to end.