Wednesday, 7 May 2014

Mental Health: Media Representation vs Reality

Mental Health Awareness Banner
   Media has a tendency to either glamorise or demote Mental Health Illnesses. However, the reality of Mental Health is much more serious and complex than many people realise

   Mental health conditions such as Depression, Anxiety, Bipolar Disorder etc. are often degraded and pushed aside as people just "going through a phase". This is morally and factually wrong as Mental Health disorders are an illness that can strike anyone at any point in their life. So why are people so blind to this and why do they proceed to tell people to "just to get over it"? If someone is suffering with a physical illness then people would be sympathetic and would do everything they can to help/support the person suffering with it. So why is there this difference between how people react and treat people with physical illnesses compared to people with mental illnesses?

   The main reason behind this difference of behaviour is because of how the Media treats and portrays people with Mental Illnesses. The Media is very influential over how the public (especially the young generation) views certain topics/situations. For a lot of the public, they will listen and believe what the Media says almost instantly without a question of thought. This, therefore means that many of the general public's opinions/beliefs are often clouded and wrong and without fact. Sadly, this is a big problem for the topic of Mental Health. Which results in many people/Media demoting Mental Health Illnesses without any actual knowledge of the situation. 

   Magazines/Newspapers are the worst types of Media for demoting Mental Health Illnesses.With Magazines/Newspapers being heavily invested in celebrities life and often writing big opinionated pieces on them. This means that if they find out that a celebrity has a certain Mental Health Illness then they sink their teeth into the story and proceed to write a big article full of opinions on why they think that the celebrity "finally lost it". This is immoral. This is not a professional view on the situation like a journalist should have instead this is someone taking advantage of someone's Mental Health in a way to make an "entertaining story."

   On the other side of the scale, there is Social Media. Sites such as Tumblr are known for having blogs/posts which seem to glamorise and beautify Mental Illnesses and Self-Harm. Tumblr is a blogging website which has the main audience demographic of young adults. The problem with this site having such a big amount of their users being young adults is the fact that at that age many teenagers have a lot of stress in their life eg. School/Exams/Home Problems/Relationships/Growing Up. For many of them, they will feel alone and like no one understands them. So when they go on to a website like Tumblr and see that they are not alone and that many of the other users are going through the same problems they form a type of community. This sounds like a generally okay thing, but it is not. If one of the teenagers in the community has been diagnosed (either by themselves or by a doctor) with depression then many of the users can look at them and see the similarities between what they're experiencing and what the user with depression is experiencing. This can result in many of the users then self-diagnosing themselves with depression. This is a severe situation. Even if the user did not have depression before this occurred the belief that they have can actually lead to them becoming depressed for real. This, however, is sadly just the peak of the iceberg. With many of the users on Tumblr now feeling depressed, it can lead them to post about their "depression" and the methods they use to help cope with it. Self-harm is sadly one of these. These posts, however, do not show the truth of depression and self-harm instead many of them highly glamorise and romanticise it to make depression/self-harm into a fairy tale about a troubled person who just needs saving and that suicide is a beautiful way of escape for a lost soul.
Glamorised Tumblr post about Suicide
   These glamorised posts can misguide other users to believe that depression is poetic in a way. Sadly, this abnormal view of depression can entice many other young users into the same cycle.

   So these are the wrong ways Media portrays Mental Health Illnesses. What is the truth behind Mental Health Problems you ask? Let's take a look.

   Clinical Depression is a severe Mental Health Illness that affects 121 Million People worldwide. Contrary to popular belief it is more complicated than people just feeling unhappy. Depression and it's symptoms can affect people in many different ways. It is generally summarised by medical professionals as a persistent feeling of sadness that is so severe that it disrupts your daily life. Many people who have depression describe it as a never ending feeling of hopelessness that makes daily tasks seem pointless. This feeling of everything being pointless means that for people with Depression it is a 100x harder for them to get out of bed in the morning than us (and we all know how hard it is get out of bed even on good days). A lot of people with Depression also find themselves more irritable and temperamental and this can result in many of their relationships with people breaking down.

   Getting better from Depression to many is an impossible task. It's like climbing a mountain without any specialised equipment to help whilst being dragged down by a 10-tonne weight. Eating Healthily and Exercise are meant to help, but when you're depressed you have no energy to exercise and junk food is one of their only comforts. The main way to start the road to recovery is to get medical help whether it be by counselling or by medication, but to many people with depression, this is the hardest step in their whole journey. Telling someone about how they're feeling is a nearly impossible task. They feel like they're going to be judged or they're going to be told to "just get over it" and most of all to tell someone what they're going through means they have to admit it to themselves and this is what many people struggle with.

   This is the daily struggle of many people dealing with depression and for many people who have other mental health illnesses. They go through a hard and difficult time and it doesn't help them that the media produces wrong images about the illnesses they suffer from. There are several organisations around the world who are trying to spread the true image of mental health illnesses. If you want to help spread awareness for mental health illnesses then make sure to visit their websites:

                                         One of World Health Organisation's videos to help
                                           spread the awareness of mental health illnesses.


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