Talking about mental health is ‘trending’
I’m not a big user of social media. As I’ve said before, I don’t trust it and it seems to involve too much time and effort. One of the reasons I distrust it is because, as a cynical person, it is so difficult to understand people’s real motives especially when they appear to be providing helpful advice or claim to be an expert on something. Just recently, my news feeds and social media notifications seemed to have become obsessed with mental health and how we should deal with mental health issues. I didn’t go looking for this information.
Everyone’s an ‘expert’
From what I see on social media, on news feeds and blog sites there appears to be a lot of self professed mental health experts out there. Like men and women’s lifestyle magazines, they constantly regurgitate advice on how to cope with depression, anxiety and stress. They tell us how important it is to look after our mental health as well as our physical health as if we didn’t already know that.
I doubt if there are many people suffering from mental health issues who are not aware of the potential benefits of psychotherapy or talking to someone, exercise, lifestyle changes, medicine and complementary medicine, breathing exercises, meditation etc. What I have come across is that some people who are depressed and anxious find it very hard to motivate themselves to take those steps. I also know they get very pissed off being given glib advice on what to do by someone they don’t know or trust and who doesn’t provide any real empathy.
Celebrity ‘victims’ (Helping others or themselves?)
We are constantly bombarded with stories of celebrities who have had mental health issues and have suffered all sorts and have made it through. Some are fabricated; some are true. Some genuine ones I suspect are of their own making. In many cases, their social media pages present these stories either to get sympathy or to show how they beat it and therefore what a successful a person they are. And of course it keeps their names out there and makes them money.
Many ‘victim’ celebrities are so obsessed with their own self importance and the need to show off their perfect lives that they can’t cope with any kind of failure or setback. Also, those that project their wonderful and successful lifestyles can lead us normal people to become dissatisfied with our comparatively mundane lifestyles. The impact on people with real depression is to compact their feeling of helplessness.
When celebrities speak out about their depression, anxiety or other forms of mental illness, it can help people by taking away the stigma of admitting to a problem. When people managing mental illnesses share their experience and what works for them, it can help others. When those with a clinical or medical background provide intelligent support, that’s fine also.
But, the majority of social media coverage I’ve come across regarding mental health advice seems to me to be a load of bull. I’m sure it has the effect of encouraging people to think they have clinical depression when in fact they are just feeling pissed off, stressed or emotionally distressed as a result of life’s events. It’s when these feelings don’t go away you have a problem.
Is it ‘fashionable’ to have a mental health issue?
The other thing this coverage does is to make it fashionable to have a mental health issue. According to new research by the world’s largest online therapy and coaching platform, 1 in 10 young teenagers view certain mental health illnesses as ‘fashionable’. The poll also found that 34% of these respondents had lied about having a mental health issue in the past. Asked to explain why, 49% claimed they made people ‘unique,’ whilst 16% believed that celebrity sufferers had made them fashionable. A quarter, 24%, stated it was ‘just cool’. (Source: http://www.Mentaline.com conducted the study of 1,192 young people in order to find out more about their opinions towards mental health problems.)
I’m sure people with genuine mental health problems must get really pissed off about this.
Social Media is not always good for your well being
Spending too much time listening to social media ‘experts’ may be counter productive but just spending too much time on social media can be bad for you. In several studies, teenage and young adult users who spend the most time on Instagram, Facebook and other platforms were shown to have a substantially (from 13 to 66 percent) higher rate of reported depression than those who spent the least time.
So, you self proclaimed social media experts and celebrities, I am suspicious of your intentions and motivations. Please shut up and show some respect to those people out there with real mental health problems.
(Please note: This is a personal view from a grumpy (but not mentally ill) old man)