I believe that the glamorisation of mental illness/eating disorders/drug abuse etc. by the media has had an extremely damaging effect on the majority of young people, including myself.
A main example of this would be ‘skins’, the now discontinued channel 4 television series. Can I just add in now that I love skins more than any other TV show of that genre or time and if it was still running I would be in Bristol or wherever, begging to become part of the cast; but there is no use in denying that while watching it, we wanted to be the slightly more fucked up characters. We didn’t want to be Michelle, Sid or Pandora, we wanted to be Cassie, Effy and Cook.
Over summer, my 14 year old sister came asking me to do her eyeliner, so she could ‘be more like Effy’. And whilst I’d hope she meant it as wanting to be a bit more femme fatale or just the make-up, it worries me that young girls are potentially aspiring to be the tragic girl, the doe-eyed Marilyn. And this is not even just a British problem. In October, I went to Argentina for three weeks and the first thing most of the girls spoke to me about was ‘skins’ and how much they wanted ‘to be Effy or Cassie’. They wanted to be them, not just the parties and the clothes but their tragedy and vulnerability, and I know they wanted this because as a fifteen year old, I wanted it as well. I wanted to be ‘stressed, depressed but well-dressed’. I wanted to wear all black and talk to psychiatrists, hell I’m pretty sure I even wanted to get institutionalised. And why? Because the generation before us, made it look cool.
This isn’t even just restricted to ‘skins’ or girls. When Stephen Chbosky’s ‘The Perks of Being a Wallflower’ came out on film in 2012, it was showing the benefits of not having any friends and being on your own from the title of the book. Boys wanted to be Charlie because he got to kiss Emma Watson and girls wanted to be friends with him because Logan Lerman is attractive, whereas, honestly, in reality, I doubt anyone would even try talking to Charlie, the ‘socially awkward teen’ if he went to their school. Why are we continuing to idolise characters’ mental illnesses whilst still holding such a strong stigma against it? We are part of a generation that is glamorising wanting to kill yourself and we’re not even addressing it.
As much as I used to love Tumblr, I doubt I’ve ever gone a minute on the site without seeing a post about being a ‘sad girl’ or ‘brxken’ or having an anorexic girl as their thinspo or a poetry written by an artsy teenager about how sad they are. And it becomes cool. If a tumblr famuz or American Apparel model reposts something about killing your lungs or being depressed or not eating and you already venerate them, you’re going to copy them and smoke more or act moody or upset more often or skip more meals.
Then when you feel happy, you feel guilty or uncool, like it’s cooler to be sad so you put yourself into the mind-set of feeling like shit which leads to actually feeling like shit. And sometimes you can get out of your rut easily, but sometimes you can’t.
I know first-hand what it’s like to suffer from something like this, so I don’t think I’m talking out of my arse too much, but yeah I used to think it was quite cool and then when I was diagnosed, it felt quite fucked up as I was thinking that it was my fault because I wanted to be like this and that was just another problem on top of everything else I was feeling at the time. It’s also really difficult to talk to people about how you feel when you’ve got depression anyway, so I always feel like a bit of a dick when I say ‘I’m depressed’ – like even writing that down just then made me feel like a twat – because due to this manipulation of mental illnesses by TV and films and social media, it’s appropriated these illnesses away from the fact that they are actually serious issues that aren’t being dealt with. This makes it harder to acknowledge that you’ve got something ‘wrong’ with you because, for me, I’m still pretty stuck in the idea that it’s not even real and I’m just being pathetic but yh idk.
And talking to psychiatrists and emotionally and mentally breaking down in front of teachers, school nurses and loved ones is not fun. It is not like ‘girl, interrupted’ or ‘the bell jar’. It fucking sucks. However, having said that, if I hadn’t have told anyone about how I was feeling, I am almost certain that I would be dead now. And I’d prefer to be struggling but kind of getting better than dead (so yeah if you feel like total shite, seriously, I sound like a safeguarding staff, but just go to a nurse or a teacher and tell them, it’s probably the hardest thing you will ever have to do but it is worth it in the long run).
And if you’re reading this thinking, which I really hope you’re not, ‘wow this girl’s amazing for being able to go through all that and still go to school and be nice to people, I wish I was like her’, then you obviously haven’t read the last 800 or so words properly. Just because I am relatively capable of conducting myself in a manner that makes it look like I’m coping with this and I’m still managing to turn up to barely half of my lessons, does not mean that I feel empowered or cool or proud or even happy for being able to cope with it. I will tell you again, reader: this is not something that we should be aspiring to be so stop it.