Thoughts on Internet Perpetuation of Bad Mental Health Patterns

This post might be a little on the heavy side folks, so bear with me.

As someone who struggles with her depression on the daily, I often turn to social media as a means of distraction. Obviously, there are some websites I use more frequently than others, but I’ve found a somewhat shocking similarity among a lot of them.

A lot of us talking about dying like, all the time. And this talk transfers over to “real” life.

To give a bit of background on mental health for people our age, college campuses hold some of the highest numbers for mental health issues. 73% of college students have some sort of mental “crisis” within their four years of education (Psychology Today). I’m thankful that we attend a college that advocates for positive mental health practices. It’d be a shock if college campuses didn’t talk about mental health. I find that because of Michigan’s attitude toward mental health, I’ve steadily attempted to battle my depression head on.

But that’s a bit hard to do when your classmates also like to talk about wanting to die so much. I find that every time I turn to social media for a bit of a mental break, I become more anxious than relaxed. A lot of my peers are tweeting, reblogging and liking posts about death. And it’s not in commemoration of their favorite actors and actresses most of the time. After realizing how many of the people I followed spoke like this, I found myself unfollowing a lot of them. It was just another thing that added to the struggle.

While in a staff meeting one day, I found that a couple of my coworkers threw talk of anxiety and depression out there after watching a video on time management. Instead of these things being seen as serious topics, they were being laughed at and joked about. This eventually lead to the usual side comment of “haha I wanna die.” I…completely shut down. I had to leave the staff meeting for the next thirty minutes while having on-and-off panic attacks in the bathroom. At one point in my life, I wouldn’t have seen these types of comments as a trigger. But at a time where I’m trying to better myself so that I can live a long and mentally healthy life, these words felt more like a drawback than a lighthearted conversation surrounding mental health.

This isn’t a pity post for me. A TedTalk Speaker, Sarah Liberti, also talks about this negative perpetuation of suicidal idealization and “casually suicidal” speech. And she finds it equally as disturbing. We’ve come to normalize this kind of thought pattern: that it’s funny to crack a joke here and there about how “life isn’t worth it” or “why go to class when I can throw myself off a building.” I’m definitely not excluded from this kind of speech. I’ve caught myself doing it, especially on the days where I’m feeling the most down. And the scarier thing is that people laugh at it, instead of staring at me in awe. These comments, though taken with a grain of salt in today’s society, are still debilitating towards someone who is attempting to get better. While I understand that some things need to be taken as a lighthearted joke, I find that mental health, at a time where students are suffering the most, should be taken a lot more serious than it is.

I ended up confronting one of my coworkers after the meeting, explaining to them that comments such as these can be triggering and hurtful towards those in recovery. While part of me didn’t want to have to be the one to say something, I was directly being affected by these negative comments. But what I’m trying to say with this post is: don’t be afraid to speak up when a comment makes you uncomfortable. Especially when it has to do with mental health. I think we should be working against this normalization of the “casually suicidal.” Making comments like this only add to pessimistic outlooks, and could make disappointing life events a lot more crippling than they were before this type of thought pattern.

So next time, before you hit retweet on that edgy, relateable post on Twitter, keep yourself, and friends, in mind.




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