Opinion: Social media glorifies mental illness


Photo illustration by Henry Pham

Studies have shown a 70% increase in self-reported depression symptoms among social media users. This takes a huge toll on our generation, turning us into the generation with the poorest mental well-being in history.

“The only crazy people are those who have nothing wrong with them.”

This was a quote I overheard in my psychology class during a discussion about mental illness. Out of all the things said during this class discussion, this quote stuck out the most. It suggests that mental illness is normal and being mentally well is crazy. This idea is wrong and harmful to individuals.

In the early 1900s, people were treated as insane and completely isolated from society in asylums if they exhibited symptoms of mental illness. In an effort to destigmatize mental illness today, we’ve created a society where it is now romanticized.

Young people have historically been the happiest and most optimistic, compared to those of other age groups, for generations. However, for our generation, it has taken a dark turn. In an article published by Discover Magazine, it was reported that Gen Z has the poorest mental well-being compared to past generations by a substantial margin. Since this is unique to our generation, it cannot be dismissed as typical teenage angst. 

The rise of social media has greatly contributed to this. While open discussions about mental illness can be beneficial, false portrayals are harmful. These false norms can detract from the seriousness of it and make it seem glamorous or desirable. 

Social media can be a dangerous place in itself with unrealistic beauty expectations and frivolous popularity contests. These can be damaging to people’s mental health, but what is even more concerning is the way mental illness is treated on social media. People downplay the seriousness of it by making it a joke or trend. Anxiety and depression are “quirky” and they are becoming normalized. When people are truly suffering, it gets overlooked, because people’s understanding of the seriousness is fading away and becoming nothing but a joke.

In a society where people are transparent about mental illness, recovery does not seem like an option. Getting help through therapy, hospitals or medications can be an important step to many in their journey to recovery. But, when having a mental illness is glorified and romanticized, people don’t see recovery as important anymore. 

This can also take a toll on peers. When a person isn’t getting the help they need, they often end up putting pressure on their friends to worry about them. Young teens have to play the role of a therapist to help their friends who may be suffering, which is something far beyond their responsibilities as a kid. This can also become damaging to their mental well-being if they feel responsible for anything bad that happens to their mentally ill friend. When someone is developing and going through their own problems, they shouldn’t have to be their friend’s therapist on top of that.

Mental illness is a serious topic that needs to be discussed in positive and constructive ways. We have blurred the lines between destigmatizing mental illness and romanticizing it. Understanding that you are not alone is important, but the “everyone-has-one” mindset needs to go. 

If we must make something a trend — it should be recovery.