Stop Romanticizing Mental Illnesses


Siddharth Karthikeya, Staff Writer

Mental illness is a serious thing. For centuries, people with mental illnesses were berated and discriminated against for their conditions.

Thankfully, things have changed.

With the passage of time, the negative stigma surrounding mental health has drastically diminished. People are starting to recognize the seriousness of mental illnesses and are finding out that they are much more common than once thought

Since people are now more understanding of mental illnesses than they were in the past, treatments are more readily available, and seeking help is beginning to be looked at in a positive light.

However, as the negative stigma dissipates and mental health issues become increasingly discussed on public platforms, young adults and youth have resorted to portraying mental illnesses as “qualities” on social media, causing the less aware, general populace to romanticize having a mental illness. As a matter of fact, because they are portrayed so inaccurately, they indirectly promote the notion that having a mental illness makes one “quirky,” or unique. 

For example, internet personality Kelsey Darragh was criticized for a shirt she designed reading “anxiety queen” in green lettering. By using a serious mental illness on her branding for marketing purposes, Darragh was chastised for being ignorant towards people suffering from the illness and being a contributor to romanticizing mental illnesses as a whole. 

Unfortunately, her ignorance took a toll far before any action was taken to remove her post. Darragh’s actions not only normalized a word associated with a serious mental health disorder, “anxiety,” but promoted the word’s usage, as those who bought her merchandise would associate themselves with the misleading branding. She claimed to be working to “destigmatize” the illness but actually did the opposite.

After seeing influencers use words like depression and anxiety casually, users can begin feeling as if they experienced the same troubles as well and are emboldened to fit into this “exclusive community,” as it is wrongfully portrayed. Influencers have been seen romanticizing eating disorders, depression, or other mental illnesses, creating so many new problems, sometimes, without even realizing it.

This leads to the idea that having a mental disorder makes you part of an exclusive group, resulting in more and more people using their social media platforms to diagnose themselves with serious disorders that they may not have. And as an effect of all of this, the severity of mental illnesses is further undermined, endorsing the idea that mental illness is commonplace and that almost everyone has it, although it is simply not true.

That being said, it is important to keep in mind that people who self-diagnose their mental illnesses should not be gaslighted, especially, if this initial self-diagnosis leads them to seek professional care for any conditions they might have. It is just that the growing culture of romanticizing these illnesses leads to uncertainty on whether people truly are struggling with the disorders or not. It also paves way for skepticism, as the seriousness of these mental illnesses is undermined by the minority that causes confusion by throwing terms around lightly after a self-diagnosis.

If you’re experiencing any symptoms of mental illness it’s crucial that you consult a counselor or doctor and seek help. It’s no longer something to be embarrassed or scared about. Your health is your priority.

So with all of that in mind, we can see that mental illness is very real should not be taken lightly. It’s important that as a generation we encourage behaviors of positivity and self-love. Because the road to stopping the romanticization of mental illnesses starts with us.


Graphic courtesy of HBR.ORG