Why We Need To Stop Romanticizing Mental Illness Amongst Teen Girls
I realized recently that my generation has a strange fascination with the perception of mental illness, especially as it relates to teenage girls. I've noticed young women posting many quotes about mental illness on their Instagrams and Tumblrs -- the sadder, the better, it seems. I think this increasing fascination with and performance of depression may stem from the media through the likes of movies and books where “broken” girls are seemingly put back together by the undying love of a man. This goes further than the typical boy-meets-girl cliché of an 80s movie and delves into the fantasy that someone with severe depression can be simply “fixed” by the right guy.
The infatuation people have with making mental illness something that can be seen as beautiful and even romantic is one that I hope will fade away as quickly as it popped up. Mental illness is not beautiful or poetic. It is a chemical imbalance in your brain that can cause you to think and do things that are dangerous and painful. It is a boulder that’s tied to your back, weighing you down more and more each day until it crushes you completely. It is a darkness that looms over you, never breaking apart to let the sunlight in. It is not something that can be solved by writing a song and it definitely can't be cured by meeting the right guy.
The reality is, the more people romanticize mental illness, the less it’s taken seriously. If every time someone posts a sappy quote on their Tumblr, who’s to say if it’s a cry for help? As the girl who cries depression creeps to the edge, will anyone believe her once her voice is too hoarse to yell? This is the fear I hold for our future as young people.
Despite what popular fiction might tell you, depression will not simply go away once you enter a heteronormative relationship. These issues are deep, and telling teenage girls that finding somebody to tell them they're beautiful or need anything less than professional help to battle depression is doing them a disservice. We cannot let teenage girls believe that someone will come and make them feel beautiful or worth it, but instead teach them to find that worth within themselves. They must find the confidence to make it through another day and the courage it takes to ask for help. This is the lesson we must teach our young women. This is the lesson of independence that will save their lives.
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