stig·ma

/ˈstiɡmə/

noun

a mark of disgrace associated with a particular circumstance, quality, or person

 

Stigma can be found anywhere: the bus, radio, TV, or on the internet. With the growing nature of anonymity online and people feeling they’d be “too sensitive” to call others out, it may seem difficult to be able to dissect what can be contributing to the overall general “stigma” of said topics. 

In terms of mental health, it seems that the stigma surrounding it can be traced far back into history. Cultures all around the world deemed mental illnesses to be unimportant, a taboo to talk of and a simple curse otherwise. History shows how psychology was an ever-evolving concept with skeptics crowding every new illness discovered, disregarding it as anything of reality. 

Although, yes, times have changed with the emergence of a new generation of conversations and encouragement to talk about mental illnesses, there has also been an introduction to new modern situations that perpetuate mental illnesses in harmful and often stigmatizing ways. With the rising number of mental health advocates comes a whole new wave of what seems like “over-normalization”, bizarre as it sounds, as well as the controversial glamorization or romanticization of mental illnesses. As a result of these new harmful takes on mental illnesses, it is important to note how exactly to stop these “trends” and look out for how you or others might contribute to it without realizing it.

 

Stigma and Media

Oftentimes, movies and television portray the mentally ill as those of villains, using their illness to propel their own “bad intentions”. Villainization of mental illnesses has put an ongoing dampener on mental health in general, only hurting those who are mentally ill and discouraging the notion to seek help. Fictional shows aren’t the only contributors; News media often makes the mistake of how hyper-focused they can be on mental illnesses in a negative way, sometimes making it seem like whatever the topic of the news source was,  is an association to all with the condition. 

As more conversations arise about mental health, however, comes also the trend of glamorization or romanticization of illnesses. Controversial shows such as 13 Reasons Why featured graphic scenes and depictions of mental illnesses, causing it to be the center of a debate of whether or not this is helping the fight to destigmatize or rather making it more difficult. 

 

The Glamorization of Mental Illnesses

Having a mental illness isn’t cute or quirky. In an attempt to normalize mental illnesses, there is a new phenomenon of integrating it so much into one’s personality that it is made to seem like having a mental illness has to be a part of you. 

A person with a mental illness is not defined by their mental illness.

Using a mental health condition for attention is not healthy nor is it helpful for those with the same conditions. It only trivializes what mental illnesses are and erases the actual pain they cause. 

 

Subtly Harmful Actions regarding Mental Health

In the moment, it can be hard to tell whether what you say or do could be harmful to those around you. The key point to remember: Your words have an impact.

 

1.Loose terminology

It has become more normalized to say sentences such as “I have major OCD” in reference to wanting to be neat, or “They’re so bipolar” to describe one’s mood change. Using these sentences descales the actual magnitudes and generalizes it to be so much less than it actually is. These sentences inaccurately depict conditions and make them too blended in with everyday life.

 

2. Mental illness jokes

For some, it may be helpful to make light of a situation that they’re actually in, using humor as a coping mechanism. But if you’re directly mocking illnesses, even if very briefly, it is degrading of the wide population that deals with that condition. 

 

3.Using mental illnesses as a personality trait

Taking someone else’s condition lightly can be harmful in many ways, such as potentially disregarding the significance of it on them or seeing them as only that condition. Simple fixes to this are quick, such as saying “This girl with depression” or “living with depression” instead of “This depressed girl”, putting attention on the person first rather than their condition. People are more than what conditions or illnesses they deal with.

 

Emma Lee
Senior at Carlmont High School
Teen Advisory Board 2019-2020

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