“Suicidal people are just angels that want to go back home.”
“I like angels so much that I want to become one”
“In a strange way, I had fallen in love with my depression”
Romanticizing Mental Illness
The stigma attached to mental health and illnesses doesn’t exist without any reason. There are many factors that play a role in the reinforcement of this stigma. I have talked in length about how denial is a big issue and how depression is seen as western propaganda. Something I have not discussed a lot is the romanticizing of mental illnesses. This majorly includes posts or quotes that make depression seem desirable and something that is “tragically beautiful”. This is mostly seen on Tumblr or Reddit and what is going on in there is, let’s just say, dangerous.
Why is it Romanticized?
When people decide to discuss their issues on social media, they could receive many different kinds of responses. Some of these responses would be of compassion and support (Like the response I got on Facebook), some would be blunt and seemingly harsh and then there is the third category of no ‘responses’ but of likes and shares. There will be no comments of support or mild scolding but it would only be likes, hearts and shares. Now imagine that you posted something asking for help and you got very few responses but when you shared your scars or cuts from self harm, you got loads of shares and likes. Ask yourself one question, which thing you are going to share again? Will it be something that might have helped but didn’t get any responses or will it be you harming yourself?
Sites that allow anonymous posting mostly end up becoming group therapy session with no therapist to take charge of the situation. You would find people suffering like you are but it is highly likely that instead of improve your situation, it would end up becoming a constant, painful cycle of reinforcement.
This leads to people expressing their emotions and hardships which end up looking like romanticization. It is important to note that the person is not aware that they are romanticizing something; they are sharing what they feel or think hence it is important to deal with this situation sensitively.
How to Stop This?
When I started researching this issue on the internet, I came across many articles which pointed out how romanticizing mental illnesses is bad. Something that all of them missed out on though is the fact that people who do it aren’t aware of it themselves. They are not doing it on purpose. Ask anyone if they have romanticized mental illnesses and they would say no, their actions may say otherwise.
When people say things like
“Suicidal people are angels that want to go back home.”
We see this as something that is uneasy romanticism but the people who write and share this see it as something completely different.
If you tell people, or shout at them, to not romanticize mental illnesses, you are more likely to alienate them and make them more shelved in. It needs to be a compassionate and sensitive discussion to bear any fruit. Again, this is not an ‘us vs. them’ fight. We don’t have to make a difference by silencing people we don’t agree with but by taking them along with us on the road to recovery. Long rants, shouting or ignoring are not viable solutions, chatting, reaching out and being calm are.
So the next time you feel someone is romanticizing mental illnesses,
Don’t ignore them, don’t rant at them or don’t scold them but talk to them. Talk to them at a time when they would be comfortable to talk and then reach out. Do this calmly and yet assertively.
Those people need help as well and it is up to at least try our best for them.