Less Glamourisation, and Much More Awareness Please!

As someone who has suffered with my own mental health issues for many years now, I am all for, and always will fight for more awareness of mental health problems. It’s vital that people can open up and talk about their issues openly without facing a stigma, and it’s vital that people open their minds more to understand what those who suffer are going through. One of the best ways to raise such awareness is through the media, and in recent years mental health has become a more common issue explored within TV and movies.

Recently, ‘13 Reasons Why’, a show which focused on a teenager’s suicide, streamed on Netflix, and coming soon is ‘To the Bone’, a show focusing on eating disorders. Both shows have received very mixed reviews and extensive media coverage, leading to the question, when is it raising awareness of mental health? And when it is simply glorifying and glamourising it?

First, let’s focus on ‘To the Bone’, which focuses on a teenage girl who suffers with an ED, and eventually leaves home to receive treatment. At first glance, it looks to be a good effort to raise awareness and break the stigma, but there’s a lot of problems with the show. The biggest no-no for me is the unnecessary inclusion of a romantic storyline, fuelling the idea for many that eating disorders and mental health problems in general bring romance, and make you more desirable to others.

I can tell you from experience, depression is not romantic, worrying about your eating is not romantic, and struggling with your existence is not romantic. Another problem is that the big stereotype of eating disorders and anorexia is that the person suffering is underweight, small, and fragile. The truth is that anyone can suffer with it at any weight, and most of the time it’s overweight people that are struggling more often. To the Bone is about a young, white, underweight girl, which only leads to others that don’t fit ‘that role’ feeling they don’t matter.

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Don’t say that to me please!

I’ve often talked about my depression on this blog, and what it’s like for me to live my life engulfed with this devastating illness. But I’ve never really focused on the people around me, and the interactions between us. Most of the people I encounter that know of my mental health issues do try to help, but often say or do something that does the complete opposite.

What a lot of people still don’t realise is that depression is a constant in the life of a depressive. We have our blips and struggles, and we also have our triumphs and successes. But when we’re having our successes and we’re feeling better, we still suffer with depression, and it can creep up on us again at any single moment without warning. Depression is something I will most likely have to battle for the rest of my life, and don’t assume that because someone has been doing better for a while, they’re not ‘fixed’.

Another thing you shouldn’t do is start comparing my feelings and actions with what you may have gone through, or what someone you know has gone through. It seems a really insensitive thing to do, and people’s experiences with mental health are unique, and no two cases can really be compared. One common example is how one action or method may have helped one person to gain control of their mental health, and some may assume it would do the same for someone else. That’s not the case, and most often, it doesn’t help.

Now this next annoyance isn’t something I’ve personally had to deal with, but a common phrase that is bounded around is ‘just get over it’ or ‘it’s all in your head’. Now no-one would ever say ‘just get over it’ to someone with a physical illness, so why should a mental illness be any different? Something that I have had plenty experience of is being told that I am grumpy, moody, and often get the ‘grow up’ phrase slung at me. Firstly, I suffer with a mental illness, I am not grumpy. I don’t particularly want to feel and act in the way that I do. Secondly, mental health conditions aren’t a sign of immaturity, anyone of any age can suffer with depression, anxiety, eating disorders etc., and me suffering with them doesn’t make me childish.

Maybe the reason this happens is because there is a lot of generalisation right now. And it’s something that annoys me a lot. And most other depressives I’d imagine. Too many people, especially young people I will add, confuse depression with simply being annoyed or upset. You are not depressed because your favourite show isn’t on tonight, and you are not depressed because your favourite celebrity has abandoned a particular haircut. Maybe this is where the immaturity stigma arose.

It’s important that those around depressives and people who suffer with other mental health conditions remember a lot of the time we’re not in control. We’ll push people away and say things we don’t really mean. It’s nothing against you (mostly). Just don’t try to say any of the crap from before, and it’s probably best if in conversations you take a lead from the person with the mental health condition. They can generally lead you to the right discussions. Trust them. Be there for them.