By Angie Tayamo
Having a mental illness is not a good thing. This should be a clear and self-explanatory statement.
However, through the long process of destigmatizing mental illness, the movement has drastically changed towards a trend of romanticizing mental illness. Though mental illness isn’t something people should be ashamed of, it also isn’t something that people should aspire to have. To understand the root of the problem, one should examine when the trend began.
People nowadays are believing that pain and tragedy are sufferings that everyone must go through. At the same time, people think that pain and tragedies are beautiful, thus using the words interchangeably. However, the terms “beauty” and “pain” are at the opposite ends of the spectrum. So why are people everywhere talking about how pain is beautiful?
According to a study featured in Stanford Journal of Neuroscience Mental Illness and Creativity, they claim the link between romanticizing mental illnesses is creativity.
“(The) legend of the tortured artist … the genius who creates great artwork because of (their) mental illness,” the study stated.
Creating works of art may be beautiful, but the mental illness itself isn’t beautiful — it is debilitating. Mental illness is all-encompassing, all-consuming and it hurts. A mental illness isn’t beautiful simply because pain isn’t pretty.
We throw around mental illnesses every day as if they are adjectives to spice up our lives. People say things like, “I’m so depressed, I failed my midterm,” or, “my room always needs to be organized, it’s my OCD.”
Girls call each other anorexic because they physically look skinny, or call a person bipolar because they simply experience different emotions. But none of these justify a mental illness. On the contrary, they make it harder for people with these issues to come forward and seek help. But when did we start self-diagnosing ourselves and others with terms we don’t know much about or only know a stereotyped representation of a mental illness portrayed by the media?
In addition, movies and television shows play a massive part in romanticizing mental illnesses because of their unrealistic portrayal. The Netflix show “13 Reasons Why” glorified the idea of suicide and wrongfully displayed triggering images of the protagonist’s death, all the while emphasizing the potential love between the two main characters. The character commits suicide primarily as revenge on the people who wronged her, but this is a terrible misrepresentation of death and mental illnesses because it causes viewers, mainly young and susceptible teens, to believe that suicide is a way out without any resources.
Society’s shift in the attitude of mental health and the portrayal of them in social media caused teenagers in middle and high school to flaunt their visible self-harm scars as a way to bring them attention. I don’t mean that their experiences are invalid, but the culture of romanticizing self-harm as something almost beautifully tragic only encourages and increases unhealthy relations to mental illness.
Mental illness should not be romanticized in society because they aren’t beautiful things to go through or live with. Perhaps we, as a society, have gone too far in trying to destigmatize the talk around mental illness that it’s created a new facade. Society has turned mental illness into something that is “cool” or “glamorous.” Suddenly, everyone thinks they are plagued with a mental illness, and it will aid them in being beautiful and bring depth or mystery to their character. Sadness doesn’t make you more attractive — it only makes you hurt.
The romanticism of mental illness hurts people who actually suffer from mental illness. It can hinder them from receiving the real help they need. Mental illness then becomes desensitized because “everybody has it.” In the end, having a mental illness isn’t something to be proud of, it isn’t something people should want to have and it definitely isn’t something to be romanticized.