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Updated: Nov 3, 2019

"The problem with the stigma around mental health is really about the stories that we tell ourselves as a society" ~ Matthew Quick

As someone who has mental illnesses, one of the things that I constantly see everyday and really winds me up is the fact that people on social media seem to glamorise having a mental health problem, particularly those that have never really struggled with it themselves. Mental illnesses are not a glamorous thing and are not something to be made a joke of or made to seem like they are cute and funny and not at all harmful or damaging to your sanity.

I think that in the days of social media and in a time where talking about mental health is becoming more and more accepted, one of the things that is holding back discussions about mental health being completely accepted is the fact that many people on social media try to glamorise mental illnesses and try to create memes about mental illnesses that will become viral because they are 'relatable'. Sorry but until you have actually had to experience having a mental illness, whether that is personally or witnessing a friend or family member deal with it, do not try and make it out like mental illnesses are not seriously damaging to the individuals that have to live with it. Glamorising mental illnesses does not create less of a stigma around them; if anything it creates more of a stigma as you are misleading people on what mental illnesses are actually like.

For example, at the moment on Twitter there is a 'trend' doing the rounds - the 'me: my therapist:' trend. Every time I go on Twitter (either on my personal or my blog account), I always see at least ten of these tweets clogging up my timeline. Many people attend therapy nowadays for whatever reason they decide to, but one of these reasons is due to having a mental illness. I have never had therapy for my mental illnesses, however I know various people who have and see people online talking about how they have just been to a therapy session and how it has helped them. A lot of the tweets I see in this 'trend' involve people saying that in order to help them through something they go shopping or change their look by cutting their hair or developing a different style, etc. What is not funny about this is that people with mental illnesses will actually do some of these things as they are really hurting and that is their coping mechanism. They spend money they do not have on things they do not need in an attempt to make them feel better. They cut their hair and/or dye it crazy colours in a moment of weakness and anger where they are lashing out in distress and feel this is the only way they can cope. I know people who have seriously damaged their hair by going through moments like this. So before you get involved in a 'trend' just to try and be 'relatable' and get lots of retweets and likes, just stop and pause for a second and think about whether this 'trend' could be seen as demeaning to people with mental illnesses and whether it is really worth you trying to be 'relatable' and going viral in one tweet where you are just making a joke of mental illnesses and adding to the stigma surrounding them.

As someone who openly suffers with depression, one of the things that really annoys me is when people casually say they are depressed, when really they are just feeling a little sad. Depression is more than just being sad. Depression is where you feel so low on some days that you cannot even face doing the little things in your daily routine, such as brushing your teeth or getting some food, because you physically cannot get out of bed as even that feels like too much effort. There is a scene in FRIENDS at the wake of Monica and Ross' grandmother, where their Dad is watching something with Joey and when it ends he says "now I am depressed... even more that I was", which gets a laugh from the audience. I get that this was in 1994 and we have come a long way since then, but what we can learn from this is that this is not depression. He is just feeling sad. Depression is not sadness. So the next time you feel sad, please do not say you feel depressed, especially if you do not suffer with depression. It is okay to feel sad, the same as it is okay to be depressed, just do not try and say the two are the same because they are not and more education needs to be done on this.

What I am about to say is probably the most sensitive part of this post, so I do apologise in advance if anything I say in this part is insensitive to anyone as I do not mean it if I do. But one thing I have witnessed, which some of my friends have done, is that some people say they want to kill themselves when the slightest inconvenience happens to them. People who feel suicidal find it difficult to find reasons to stay alive, which can often be due to a variety of different things happening in their lives that makes it difficult for them to want to stay here. When I see people who say they want to die just because they are trying to do something but cannot do it and out of frustration say they want to kill themselves, it really annoys me as in most cases they are clearly not in a place where they would ever even consider suicide. Suicide is quite a taboo subject and sadly this is something that many people have sadly gone through as they see no other way out. I could never imagine myself being in this position, so to see people who are is utterly heartbreaking. So I urge you to please think before you speak as you may think that over one inconvenience it warrants you in saying you want to kill yourself, but in reality you do not feel like this and if anything it is being incredibly insensitive to those who genuinely feel like this.

This probably annoys me the most out of what I have already said and am later going to say, and that is people trying to be relatable by saying they have anxiety, when in actual fact they do not. I understand that everyone can get anxious over some things, such as having to stand up and talk in front of a large crowd, but there is a difference between getting anxious and having anxiety. Having anxiety is where your chest feels like it is getting really tight, making it hard to breathe; you have sleepless nights the night before you have to do something that heightens your anxiety; you constantly feel like you are going to throw up over the things that cause you anxiety; your digestion is really bad; getting pins and needles and generally just like your whole body is feeling numb; and that is just to name a few. I can understand that everyone may feel anxious at some point in their lives, but having to deal with it on a daily basis is not fun and is not something that should be made fun of. Sometimes it is there when you expect it to be, other times it creeps up on you when you least expect it. I honestly feel that my anxiety is affecting my quality of life as it affects my ability to do the things that anyone else would consider as normal and easy to do. If you do not feel that anything I have just said applies to you, then chances are you do not have anxiety and if you do try and be 'relatable' online by posting anxiety memes then please just stop as there is nothing more annoying than seeing something that I can relate to but I know that the person posting it and most of the people retweeting and liking it do not actually feel this way.

As many of you from the UK may or may not remember, a couple of months ago a woman went on This Morning and spoke about how she lied about having depression in order to get cosmetic surgery. You can watch that interview here. This woman decided to fake having breathing problems and depression to her GP in order to get out of having to pay £7000 for a nose job if she had done it privately. This angered me as she seems to think it is okay to lie about having a mental illness in order to get surgery, even though she had previously paid for cosmetic surgery. No one wants to have a mental illness and living with it is even worse, so to see someone blatantly lying about having depression in order to get surgery for free really disgusts me. To me she is making it out like everyone who says they have a mental illness is lying about it to get attention or to get something easier than if they did not have a mental illness. I know some people do lie about having a mental illness but I can never understand why anyone would lie about having a mental illness. I wish I could be lying so that I would not have to live with it, but I am not. So if you ever feel the need to lie about having a mental illness in order to get free surgery (or just feel the need to lie about having a mental illness in general), I urge you not to as you are only adding to the stigma that everyone who does have a mental illness goes through every day.

The fashion industry also adds to the stigma surrounding mental health. The first thing that comes to mind are items of clothing that include the phrase 'sweet but psycho' or 'cute but psycho', which I feel really came about around the same time as the release of Ava Max's song 'sweet but psycho'. Some of you reading this may be wondering what is wrong with a t-shirt or a song containing these words. The problem with this is people who may have schizophrenia or bipolar or other mental illnesses like this can be called psycho (which is absolutely NOT okay). The song suggests that even though the person is a psycho, it is okay because they are cute and sweet and good-looking. But in the song she is not seen to refer to any mental illnesses, however it suggests that calling someone psycho is absolutely fine and is not offensive in any way (it is). So putting this on items of clothing further fuels the problem as people are paying money to wear something that is adding to the stigma around those who have mental illnesses that are still widely seen as weird and abnormal and as something that no one wants to try and make into being a 'relatable', yet trying to be 'relatable' when it comes to anxiety is. Companies are actually profitting off of these clothing items and by doing so are encouraging people to add to the stigma surrounding mental health. They are essentially saying that it is okay if someone is psycho as long as they are cute. They are saying that in this instance it is okay to be psycho, but for those who actually have a mental illness that brands them as 'psycho', they are actually just weird and not cute at all. People post pictures of themselves wearing these items of clothing and put the caption as what is on their item of clothing and people comment on them saying how pretty they look and how their caption is relatable. Please stop. It is not relatable, you are just contributing to stigma around mental health.

Linking into this industry is the TV industry. TV shows create storylines out of many things that are hitting our world today - one of these being mental health. If anyone else watches Coronation Street, you may or may not remember the storyline surrounding Craig Tinker being diagnosed with OCD. Gradually over time we saw Craig struggling to deal with his OCD before he knew what it was as he would have to turn all of the switches in the flat on/off a set number of times before he had to go out as he thought that if he did not then something bad would happen, either to him or someone else. If he got interrupted whilst doing this he would have to start again from the beginning. When someone did see him doing this and he admitted he needed help, he was able to get a GP appointment the very same day. To me, this suggests that they are giving the impression that as soon as you say you have a mental health problem, you can be seen straight away for it. The amount of times I have seen online people saying they have tried to get a doctor's appointment but cannot get one for at least three or four weeks is unbelievable. So many times I have seen people say they have tried to speak to their GP about their mental health but have not been listened to. If a TV show is going to make any sort of storyline, at least make it accurate. Show the struggle of trying to get a doctor's appointment. Show the struggle of what the majority of people who have a mental illness face in trying to get a professional to listen to them and taking their concerns seriously.

Similar to TV and having OCD, something that seriously annoys me is people claiming their 'OCD is coming out' just because they have a bit of a tidy-up. OCD is not just about being tidy. For those of you who do not know, OCD stands for Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. The obsessions are the thoughts in your head that are irrational, such as having a fear of getting germs from others, which then turns into a compulsive behaviour where you carry out the thought, so where you fear getting germs from others, you feel the need to clean every single inch of your house as soon as someone else has been there so you do not catch the germs you supposedly think they have. An example of this is a TV character we all know and love: Sheldon Cooper. As good of a show as The Big Bang Theory is, throughout it's 12 year run, it spent a lot of time making Sheldon's OCD to be a big joke. Yes, he keeps on saying his mother had him tested, but every time he knocks on someone's door, he has to knock three times and say their name(s) after each knock. It is laughed at and the other character's in the show take the mickey out of this. This is what OCD is. It is not just when you decide to tidy your room because it is a little messy. It is constantly dealing with obsessive thoughts and compulsive behaviours that you cannot control.

Another thing (and I promise this is my last) that really annoys me is when someone claims to be having a panic attack, when in reality they are just panicking. There is a difference. Everyone panics over some things, for example I panic over being late to uni. But I am not having a panic attack. A panic attack is where you begin to feel disconnected from people around you, almost as if you can hear their voices but you cannot see them; your chest begins to tighten and you cannot breathe; you feel sick; your mouth is dry; and feeling like your body is jelly. Panic attacks can happen at the most random times. My first panic attack happened when I was sat on my bed and one minute I was completely fine, the next I remember feeling like I had just woken up but I was on the floor, crying uncontrollably, and struggling to breathe. I would never wish that moment on anyone. So if you ever say you are having a panic attack, please actually mean that you are having a panic attack and not that you are just panicking. There is such a vast difference between the two, do not make out like you are experiencing one when you are actually experiencing the other.

I know not a lot of what I spoke about involved social media, however they are all things that I have seen happen both in real life and on social media. It all contributes to the glamorisation of mental illnesses and I am fed up of it. There is nothing glamorous about having a mental illness. I would give absolutely anything to not have to struggle with the things I struggle with on a daily basis; something I am sure lots of other people agree with. If you are going to use your social media accounts to try and be relatable about having a mental illness, how about instead you use it to raise awareness of the struggles people go through on a daily basis. Everyone is so quick to retweet about the statistics of people who suffer with mental illnesses during mental health month/week/day or when someone commits suicide or says they have a mental illness they will be sharing and retweeting things about that. Where is that support on a daily basis? People are so quick to spread hate online nowadays and those people are also the people who will come out and show support when something tragic happens. How about preventing the tragedies? How about actually doing something worthwhile on your social media accounts instead of using it to form an opinion of someone you have never met? In an age where we have the power to spread more awareness than we would have just ten years ago, why are we using this power to do bad instead of good? So please stop trying to glamorise having a mental illness and use your time in a more productive way by using your social media platforms to raise awareness of mental illness and maybe then our world could be a better place.

Love Beth xx

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