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.