Today I wanted to address something that makes me incredibly angry; the glorification of mental illness in some online communities, and people who use mental illnesses as labels in order to make themselves interesting, as if they are a trend, especially those who openly call themselves ‘pro-ana’.
People who spread this content are commonly found on social networking sites such as Instagram and Tumblr, often on an account they have dedicated to the feeling of sadness. There is nothing wrong with expressing your feelings, and it is healthy and encourageable, but when it introduces glamourised portrayals of self destructive behaviour and dangerous illnesses, it becomes an issue.
There have been many occasions upon which I have seen depression labelled as an aesthetic. Depression, and other serious illnesses, are being reduced to a trend, and this is making the social stigma around mental illness increasingly difficult to tackle. People who suffer as a result of their mental health have a hard enough time being taken seriously due to societal attitudes towards it, and having their issues trivialised online amplifies the shame they have forced upon them.
Depression is not something to add to your username or use as your aesthetic to look cool. Depression is a grievous illness. Depression isn’t elegant moments of staring off into the distance with mascara running down your face, or chainsmoking and crying like you’re in an episode of Skins. Depression is lack of motivation so severe that you begin to neglect self-care and spend days or even weeks isolated from social situations. Depression is feeling so down you can’t even leave your bed some days.
Depression is not pretty.
Anorexia and bulimia are also heavily sentimentalised in such communities, even given ‘pretty’ nicknames: ‘Ana’ and ‘Mia’; some accounts even label themselves ‘Pro-Ana’ and ‘Pro-Mia’. You read that right, pro eating disorders. It completely bewilders me that anyone would want to promote self hatred so strong that it fuels a need for you to change that you would destroy yourself for. These pages even give tips for starving themselves; ‘Pro-ana/mia’ communities kill people.
It shouldn’t even need saying. Anorexia is not a pretty girl looking contently at her bathroom scales after skipping a few meals. Bulimia is not another dainty girl leaning over a toilet finding “perfection”. Eating disorders are fainting, fatigue, severe hydration, and overall weakness. Eating disorders are losing hair from your head and growing it all over your body in order to keep it warm. Eating disorders are an increased risk of heart failure and even death. You preach that “nothing tastes as good as skinny feels” but that could not be further from the truth. Someone dies from an ED every 62 minutes (source), and I’m sure that leaves a horrid taste in the mouths of everyone destroyed by losing someone close to them to a horrible illness.
Eating disorders are not pretty.
Dangerous self destructive behaviour such as self harm and even suicide are also presented in a positive way. Although it is understandable that people who self harm see it as a way of relieving tension and can be dependent on it, some posts even go as far as encouraging people to engage in it. Some posts shine a similar light on suicide, and messages of some photos that circulate the internet suggest that suicide is “paradise” or “wonderland”.
Too many people begin self harm because of the glorification present in these communities. Self harm is on the rise significantly in the UK alone. Too many people are convinced that suicide is their only way out by people who so selfishly promote such harm. Self harm is not beautiful. It isn’t “a tiger earning their stripes”, it’s living with your scars for the rest of your life and having a constant reminder of the horrible ordeal that was your struggle with self mutilation. Suicide is not “being free” or finding “wonderland”. Suicide is feeling so low that you destroy all of your worth and potential. Suicide is taking your life and ruining the lives of your loved ones.
Self harm and suicide are not pretty.
The list of horribly glamourised illnesses could go on and on.
This distorted glorification of seriously harmful illnesses needs to stop. You wouldn’t make out cancer or other detrimental physical illnesses and cute and romantic, so why do the same with mental health issues? Suffering from mental illnesses isn’t beautiful, and promoting them isn’t acceptable. They don’t make people love you and find you special and beautiful, they often make you victim of strong stigma, that trivialisation like this online can fuel. This content is especially dangerous when it impressionable teenagers online; it really hurts people and needs to stop.
Although I completely accept responsiblity for the way that I have treated myself in the past, and self harming was no one’s fault but my own, I can honestly say that if I had never come across blogs glorifying self harm, I likely would never have engaged in such behaviour. So if you don’t want to listen to me and everything I have said above, listen to the child I was 5 years ago, being influenced too heavily by such toxic communities and beginning to destroy myself and quickly realising that there was nothing pretty at all about such a destructive behaviour. Listen to me, aged 13, attempting suicide because I thought it was the only way out, because that’s what blogs like yours told me. Listen to me now, still trying so hard to recover and constantly being terrified of slipping back into such a horrible mindset and relapsing. Please, I ask you to think about the people you’re potentially hurting, especially the young people who are so easily influenced by things they see online.
If you run accounts hosting content like this, in the most respectful way possible, delete them. They’re not allowed online for a reason. Please, instead of spreading your problems to others, get help, starting with getting rid of the negativity of the blog/account you post things so damaging on. I discussed ways of getting support in my last post, and I ask that you at least consider taking action to help yourself for your own sake and for the sake of people put at risk by the content you share online.
And to those who feel affected by such communities, I want you to know and remember that no matter what they tell you, things can always get better.
Thank you for reading! I hope you have found this post helpful and I wish you the best of luck in your recovery. Keep growinggg!