Opinion | We need to stop normalizing the idea that everyone struggles with mental illnesses

Valerie Larsen, Staff Writer

In the midst of a pandemic full of uncertainty, feelings of anxiety and worry are common. For some, these feelings are just temporary. For others, these emotions play a permanent role in their everyday lives. Yes, it’s always useful to reach out and talk to someone about how you’re feeling. No one is happy 100% of the time. Yet, the term “I’m so depressed” or “I have so much anxiety” seems to be used far too casually lately, on social media, or in daily conversations. I have noticed that our generations like to use mental illnesses in order to gain attention or popularity and the effects of this are bigger than some realize.
For someone who struggles with depression or anxiety, it can be extremely hard to seek help. In fact, only 36.9% of people suffering from depression in the US actually reach out for help and move forward to receive treatment, according to ADAA. So when our generation goes around labeling their bad days as a result of mental illness, it can take the spotlight away from those who are truly struggling.
There are so many misconceptions out there when it comes to mental illnesses. A freshman at ETHS narrows in on anxiety explaining how “A lot of people think that anxiety is just getting stressed about doing a presentation or something when it’s really a lot more than just stress… stress is not anxiety and when people say I’m so anxious, they really mean they are stressed.”
For me, I feel we have many false understandings when it comes to depression. I noticed people lightheartedly claim “I’m so depressed” as a followup statement to something that is making them feel down in their lives. It creates this false reality that everyone who has depression has a reason to be depressed. But the truth is, someone who suffers from depression may not always know why they feel this way. We need to step away from this manner of thinking because it can spread the narrative that being clinically depressed is not valid.
In all, depression is a complex illness, and it affects people in many different ways. Reasons for depression aren’t always obvious or simple. We live in a world where we are constantly comparing ourselves to others, so when one does not meet society’s expectations of what mental illness is, it makes it hard for them to reach out.
“When we use terms like “depression” to describe perfectly normal and healthy feelings of sadness, we are doing a disservice to those who live with the painful and oftentimes debilitating reality that is clinical depression,” states ETHS social worker Megan Goodell.
Personally, I am a positive person, but sometimes my positivity can be viewed as innocence. In my experience, I have noticed that positive people are made to feel bad because they have never had to deal with real-world problems, which is not always true. It’s like we have created this societal pressure to be damaged or broken, or else your “bland or “not relatable.” And while no one wants to fall under these labels, it ends up creating this need to be someone you’re not.
Something that has gotten extremely popular on TikTok lately is self-diagnosing content. Where videos claim to help you determine if you have a mental illness based on how many statements apply to you. Any average person could easily relate to these videos because the questions are very general. This content only covers the surface of what it might be like to have a mental illness. The process of clinically diagnosing someone with a mental illness is much more complicated than creating a 15-second video. While some TikTok creators make an effort to accurately represent mental illnesses, others clearly don’t give any thought into the content they create. For example, one video I came across read “ If you can sing the song stressed out at 3 times the speed then you were depressed as a kid.”
Trends like these have gotten a lot of backlash from some people in the TikTok community, who explain that content like this romanticizes dealing with mental illnesses, or poses mental illness as pretty or aesthetic. But being clinically diagnosed with a mental illness is far from aesthetic. It also was apparent that many TikTok creators used these kinds of trends as an opportunity to get views or attention from their audience. When we encourage more people to hop onto a “mental health trend” it can cause serious damage to victims.
“Usually, when I see something glorifying mental illness it makes me upset because it’s not fun or cute to actually struggle with this stuff,” continues the freshman at ETHS
When someone comes to you with an issue that concerns their mental health, it can be really easy to try to relate, I am guilty of this sometimes too. But in the process of trying to relate, the conversation can suddenly become about you. As someone who does not have a mental illness, I have to remind myself when talking to peers about their mental illness, that I am there solely for support and to keep my life out of it. When offering only your support, it shows that you are there for them and they can trust you. But sometimes someone you know may need support that goes beyond your abilities,
“I want to stress the importance of the Acknowledge, Care, Tell when you are concerned about a peer or a loved one,” concludes Goodell.
It’s always good to keep good mental health even when you don’t struggle with a mental illness, it’s important to find ways to express your emotions without invalidating others’ mental illnesses in the process.