I remember reading a tweet from Ariana Grande last December amidst Kanye’s twitter rant that stated, “last thing. stop weaponizing mental health. Everyone.”
I personally found the now-deleted tweet questionable, as I thought it was courageous of Kanye to have been continually speaking up about his mental health struggles in his efforts to normalize and break the stigma. Unsurprisingly, the tweet was met with major backlash, as many thought of her statement as insensitive and dismissive towards the true struggles of having a mental illness.
There is no doubt a stigma against people who struggle with mental illness, and it has been a long-standing one. Yet of recent years, I do believe that we have collectively broken barriers by (slightly) destigmatizing the concept of having mental health issues, allowing us to create and provide more resources for those in need, while bringing awareness to the general public on the different illnesses that people may be having.
Mental illnesses suck. It sucks because it happens all in your head, and it eats at you slowly until you start to see its repercussions in physical form and have them affect and disrupt your daily routine. Sometimes, one would not even know of his/her condition, but would nevertheless continue to be in that “sunken place”, as Mr. West himself would put it.
What troubles me as of late is that with this new heightened awareness and destigmatization, people are starting to see having mental health issues as something fashionable. For that I wanna say a big fat NO! It’s hard to understand the true extent on how it can destroy someone’s life if you’ve never dealt with it yourself before.
Our language has also culturally adapted to this shift, as people continually use and coin terms and phrases involving mental illness. Some of the more commonly used words and expressions include “retarded”, “OCD”, “panic attack”, “anxious”, “depressed”, “suicidal”, and “bipolar”. For the average Joe, this might seem not seem like a big deal. But casually integrating terms like this in our speech eventually discounts and quells the pain, struggle and journey of those who are actually mentally ill. Imagine having anxiety and having to hear your friend talk about “having a panic attack” just because her boyfriend left her on read. Panic attacks are physically brutal and mentally exhaustive on one’s mind and body. Mental illness is not something cute to have, nor is it something that is easily reversible. People who are mentally ill are sensitive to the topic of being sick themselves, and surrounding themselves in such immature behavioral patterns can trigger unwanted emotions and feelings and can thus even have an overall negative impact on one’s recovery; in the worst cases, it can lead to a relapse. No one wants to be mentally ill. It does not help that many clothing companies sell clothes that literally scream and parade mental illnesses – like it’s a joke.
Instead of using mental illnesses as something to stay relevant, let’s perhaps invest that energy into actually helping and being there for those who are actually sick. Let’s stop the sad-girl culture.