By: Shaila Anjum
When we are down, sometimes social media feels like a source of comfort. Memes and quotes we see about mental illnesses that we resonate with trick us to feel as though maybe we have depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, borderline personality disorder, and others. Though often times quotes and memes can be relatable, it’s important to remember these mental illnesses go beyond just words. Memes can be helpful for some people but make things worse for others. Read below to find some pros and cons of mental health memes:
Helps people know they are not alone
Dr. Baylosis’s research finds that the majority of mental health memes are created by individuals with a mental health diagnosis (Ward, 2018). It’s a way of people connecting and providing support in an indirect, humorous way.
Humorous memes help us cope
A meme reads: “Can’t have seasonal depression if you’re depressed all year ‘round” (Ward, 2018). These type of quotes give us a giggle and help us remember that we have the ability to push past our difficulties by not getting too worked up or anxious.
When people feel they can relate to a social media post, they may feel as though they have the mental illness themselves. It’s difficult to understand but we must try. Neurotypically, we often feel similar things to people with mental illnesses, but people with mental illnesses feel and experience those things on such a large scale that it affects their day-to-day healthy living.
Devalues and stigmatizes mental illness
Mary Ward titles her article “‘We wouldn’t be making jokes about heart disease’” and talks about how mental health can be a sensitive topic for many (Ward, 2018). Psychologist, Dr. Kinsela, says “Someone might be saying they are 'depressed', but actually their condition is quite different,” (Ward, 2018).
Makes people on the severe end of the mental illness feel worse
A 25 year old male with clinical depression diagnoses expresses, “When people are saying, 'might as well kill myself', that annoys me and I don't like it…” (Ward, 2018). Sometimes memes are taken too far. But, it’s not always easy to know what is “too far” because something that is too much for one person may not be for someone else. That’s why making light of mental illness can be controversial.
Romanticizes mental illness
People almost yearn for the feeling of suffering: “mental health humor encourages individuals to perform their mental illness in a way that follows a narrative pre-written by the collective voice of the internet” (Nocoara, 2018). Dr. Nicoara explicitly expresses the human nature to want attention in a way where they fit into social media norms and popularity.
Mental illnesses like depression and anxiety usually make people who have it feel like they aren’t good enough. Mental illnesses being mainstream only invalidates people’s suffering as a norm and can inhibit them from seeking the help they need (Swindells, 2017).
Though Dr. Kinsela, a Psychologist from Melbourne, advises that mental health memes can have both a positive effect and a negative effect (Ward, 2018), there seem to be more negative effects. We have come a long way in raising awareness in mental health, but an adequate comprehension on the topic still lacks. The honest truth is that people creating and sharing these memes recognize it as a serious issue but choose to find and share the humor in it anyway.
It is important to remember: even though memes can help some cope, they are in no way a replacement for therapy, medication, or a proper diagnoses.
Nicoara, L. (2018). Memes and the casual conversation around mental illness. Retrieved from https://areomagazine.com/2018/08/26/memes-and-the-casual-conversation-around-mental-illness
Swindells, K. (2017). You gotta laugh or you’ll cry: The rise of mental illness memes. Retrieved from http://forgetoday.com/2017/11/14/you-gotta-laugh-or-youll-cry-the-rise-of-the-mental-illness-meme
Ward, M. (2018). We wouldn’t be making jokes about heart disease. Retrieved from https://www.smh.com.au/lifestyle/health-and-wellness/we-wouldn-t-be-making-jokes-about-heart-disease-20181010-p508ql.html