I don’t know if you’ve heard or not, but mental health is “in” these days.
Whereas in the past any mention of depression, anxiety or stress could get a scoff or a dismissive bark to “suck it up,” today earns your a welcoming community with open arms.
You no longer have to protect an image or keep up a tough persona, the conversation surrounding mental stability has successfully shifted to space where men and women from all backgrounds feel empowered to come clean about their battles.
So much so in fact, there is literally not enough psychiatrists to meet the demand.
According to notes from the physician search firm Merritt Hawkins in ahe United States is suffering from a dramatic shortage of psychiatrists and other mental health providers.
Online counseling sites like Talkspace have grown up to 80% in the past couples of years, celebrities are coming out the woodworks revealing their personal battles, and everybody and they mamma thinks they’re a motivational speaker on social media now.
We as a society have changed. We are we now champions of self-help.
One could say that the perfect storm social media’s openness and the stressful political atmosphere are culprits to this shift. Enough people were pushed far enough to the edge that eventually something had to give. Talkspace’s boost happened right after Trump was elected.
It’s almost like once we got over talking about mental health, we realized we all we’re dealing with the same thing. Millennials are experiencing higher levels of anxiety, depression, and thoughts of suicide than generations past and 1 in 5 adults now say they have a mental health condition.
As mental health transcends into the front of popular conversation, however, it’s important to address if help is being distributed as well as how it may be getting spun for personal gain. But first, let’s take a look at how it has become the new agenda.
Research has shown that fear of being labeled and stigmatized affects people’s willingness to disclose their illness and seek treatment, which is why it’s been a watershed moment in our society for so many high profiled individuals to come out and speak on their mental wellness.
To say there’s been a proliferation of mental health awareness campaigns would be putting it lightly.
Celebrities from Zayn Malik and Prince Harry to athletes like DeMar DeRozan and Kevin Love, plus even including the likes of Charlamagne Tha God and Royce da 5’9, all share completely different backgrounds touching lives from all corners of the world, yet have all come out within the past two years preaching the same thing: therapy.
Just last year, hip-hop megastars, Kid Cudi, and Kanye were both hospitalized for mental health-related issues — a first for the, at times, problematic genre. Now that terms like depression, anxiety, and loneliness are cultural buzzwords, you have to look toward these names for credit.
There’s been an awakening — we’re starting to recognize certain behaviors are products of trauma we’ve faced and that we’ve been self-medicating this whole time. Everyone has experienced anxiety and depression to some degree. They just never had to courage to look into it until now.
Unfortunately, much like anything that’s popularized, there’s always a risk of oversaturation; and such has been the case with self-help and mental health.
Helpful conversation vs Harmful appropriation
It seems like everyone on the internet is anxious. A viral tweet from journalist and mental health campaigner Hattie Gladwell sums it up perfectly: “Anxiety disorder is not feeling nervous about a test. Please stop using mental illnesses to describe everyday emotions.”
Bipolar is not waking up happy and going to bad sad over an argument.
OCD isn’t liking your cupboards tidy.
Depression is not having the odd bad day.
Anxiety disorder is not feeling nervous about a test.
Please stop using mental illnesses to describe everyday emotions.
— hattie gladwell (@hatttiegladwell) May 8, 2018
Because people are becoming more comfortable with describing and self-diagnosing themselves as having anxiety and other forms of mental illness, especially on social media, the ones who deal with it on the daily basis and at higher extremes get deafened in the process.
Anxiety is a disorder, but anxiety is also a very common experience and symptom. Yet it appears that the nuance and differentiation of them both has gotten lost in translation.
The worse are those who use mental awareness to advance their own agenda. Like YouTuber Logan Paul who uploaded a video showing the body of an apparent suicide victim in Japan’s Aokigahara forest for his 15 million subscribers this year.
He claims he was raising awareness of suicide but no one is convinced. He’s since apologized and has taken it down, but that was after nine-plus million already viewed it.
Then, of course, you have your politicians latching on to the promises of improving mental health accessibility despite knowing the access to NHS services is limited. For a seat in office, rhetoric with no true purpose is being spoon fed to whoever will listen, which equally detrimental to the cause.
The sensationalism of self-help
The appeal to self-help content has it’s obvious advantages and an apparent appeal: it’s positive, easy and simple.
It’s why your favorite rapper is now telling you to “lead with love” and to “spread happiness” on Twitter.
Health is wealth! Protect it at all cost!
— Gucci Mane (@gucci1017) May 16, 2018
You can be anything you want in this world…
Just don't be…
— Diddy (@Diddy) May 16, 2018
When it comes to trends, positivity beats out Tide Pods and snorting cinnamon any day. But at the same time, outlets of where to get help and practical steps on how to be your best self is much more helpful than shouting at people that they are bigger than their problems. I think a lot of these rappers forget that.
Being that it’s #MentalHealthAwarenessWeek and #MentalHealthAwarenessMonth there is no better time than now to firstly make sure you and all your loved ones are intentional about ensuring mental wellness but also knowing when not to make the movement into a fad.
Trend or not I see the heightened awareness of self-care as a good thing and I hope we all see the change for the better going forward because of it.