Why making mental illness ‘trendy’ is dangerous

Romanticisation of illnesses such as anorexia, depression or anxiety is already a serious problem

Written by Fiadh Brosnan


Mental Health Awareness Day has recently passed, and that means a load of people posting about mental health, which is absolutely brilliant! There’s one thing that really needs to be avoided, and that’s talking about mental health as if it’s a ‘trendy’ topic. Let me say now; trendy and important are two very different things.

Romanticisation of illnesses such as anorexia, depression or anxiety (there are many many more) is already a serious problem. For someone who isn’t suffering to come along and (even if their intentions are good) preach about something they can’t understand, does far more damage than good. Raising awareness and labelling yourself with something you don’t have has two polar opposite effects, and keeping a clear differentiation between them is highly important. Raise awareness, shout from rooftops, make people aware and feel safe to speak up themselves. That’s positive impact. Negative impact comes in when you take something you can’t possibly comprehend, and begin to preach. No. Stop right there. You wouldn’t speak about being in the midst of frontline combat if you had never been, so don’t talk about anxiety attacks because you had a couple of butterflies in your belly before a school test one day.

Scrolling through the black holes of Tumblr or Pinterest will get you endless posts of this ‘romantic’ idea that a fight against your mind is something almost glamorous. This is where trendiness comes in. If you’re unable to relate to these pictures, you will more than likely think they’re stupid or whiny. You’ll see a skinny girl or a scar on a wrist and either be repulsed or unaffected (of course there are people with empathy as well). You’re also extremely lucky. However, this pit of pictures can suck some minds in and absolutely consume them. This isn’t healthy infatuation of an image, it’s damaging and results in both mental and physical harm for a lot of people.

If you start saying things like “I’m so depressed” or “I’m OCD” on a whim, it first of all sidelines people with the problem, and secondly gives a bad ‘attention seeking’ label even though those with it are often either in denial or too afraid to speak up. A really good video which mentions this is one by Savannah Brown, a YouTuber who highlights that there are illnesses that fit into the box of trendy and then others that are in no-go zones that no one should talk about or even mention. Neither of these boxes should even exist. All illnesses, physical and mental should come without stigmas and be openly spoken about in educational and supportive manners. A broken bone is not a trend, nor is a broken mind.

End note; Speaking out about mental illness and releasing the stigma is absolutely wonderful. If you’re not actually suffering, you can still absolutely do this! Be tasteful and respectful. There’s a huge difference to being sad and having the absence of feeling altogether. Keep that in mind the next time you think of saying you’re so depressed.

Below is a video poem I made a few months back about my previous and ongoing struggles with mental health stigmas. Take a look if you haven’t already.

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