Opinion: Depression memes are a way of talking about mental health in a more comfortable way

Emmy Frosdick, a second year Film and Television student, talks about today’s internet culture, and how memes are affecting discussions around mental health.

Photo: Emmy Frosdick

Look into any psychological journals, or ask any professional – more people are being open about their mental health. In an age where more and more people are going to the doctors about their illness, it’s clear that this generation is understanding and not ashamed of their mental health.

In generations before, the idea of being open about mental health was unheard of amongst many living with issues and problems, which could affect those around them.

However, while more people being open about their mental health has millions of benefits for the young people seeking information, there is a danger to overshare and see mental health problems as something to want. This is also known as romanticising.

This is something that has become more noticeable in the age of technology and social media – images of celebrated self-harm and a phenomenon of ‘pro-ana’, which is a fast-growing online identity that promotes eating disorders like bulimia and anorexia.

More often than not, this romanticising shows mental illness as something that does not need to be taken care of, which can deepen the pain and suffering of those who have the illness.

While this romanticising has been still lurking in the dark corners of the internet, mental health on social media is not dead. In fact, in the last 12 months, there has been a new fad amongst young adults struggling with mental health: depression memes.

Memes – a cultural idea passed from one individual to another, usually in the form of comedy – have become one of the staples of internet culture. In the recent years, due to the internet’s expanding nature, these memes have become a lot more surreal. Memes have usually gone to dark places, but the ideas of depression here aren’t cruel, rather a way of talking about depression in a more comfortable way.

This isn’t unusual. Many famous comedians such as Louis CK and others have used surrealist comedy to talk about these issues with mental health.

However, this new trend amongst young adults and students could provide students with some dark chuckles, might prove to be a problem. Some suggest that the memes cheapen the experience of those who suffer with depression and anxiety turning it into a joke, and leads to people concealing the real horrors of their mental illnesses.

Whatever the case, social media and how students use it will hopefully lead to positive ways of figuring out our mental health.

We shall see what happens in the near future.

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