mental health

Normalising Mental Health

Tiktok has been a great platform for education on many topics, one of which being mental health. It’s fantastic that it’s becoming more normalised in society because most people suffer from a mental health problem at least once in their life. However, I’ve also noticed issues that arise with normalising mental health and I want to go into what these issues are and why it’s damaging.

What’s the issue?

One particular trend that was popular lately was a song would play and two people would be sitting in front of the camera listening. The purpose of the tiktok was to show someone with anxiety masking their anxiety and someone without anxiety. A common trend was that the anxiety sufferer would be fidgety and unable to sit still but the person without it could.

The issue with trends like these lies in the fact that anxiety is different for everyone and that a lot of these people seemed to be acting fidgety. I’m not saying they don’t suffer from anxiety because they may. But it does bring up the question whether or not they do and instills doubt. Normalising it in such a way as this, portrays that fidgeting and erratic movement is normal in all situations, such as listening to a song. It doesn’t take into account that there are triggers. As a result it downplays it and sends the message that this is just everyday life for anxiety sufferers – suggesting triggering events don’t occur.

When there is a message like this in place it doesn’t do anyone favours. Causing people to believe that fidgeting and inability to sit still equals anxiety can give rise to self diagnosis especially in kids. It can also popularise the term, for example; the way OCD would be used when people were being impulsive. This is an issue because if someone doesn’t suffer from anxiety and they believe these behaviours are normal in anxiety and use the term loosely, it can cause them to invalidate other anxiety sufferers. In the end, anxiety definitely can be self-diagnosable to a certain extent, however a lot of the time it requires intervention by a professional to diagnose and build a care plan based on this diagnosis.

Examples of poor mental health portrayal:

I want to list some examples that poorly portray mental health. There’s a lot out there but I’d like to list a few that I’ve noticed. A common theme tends to be romanticising it and this is quite damaging. It teaches people with mental health issues that there’s a romantic component to it and those without that a person can fix another person. By all means open up to someone but it really creates unfair expectations on both people.

  • 13 Reasons Why. It created a haunting yet romantic aesthetic to suicide and leaving the tapes as a suicide note. It also created a revenge fantasy and did little on suicide education and prevention. Another theme it lacked was that it didn’t encourage those with depression to seek help.
  • Glee. I once played a Glee drinking game. Having a sip for every offensive thing they say can be dangerous. I was truely shocked. Glee does a really great job of making it seem like mental illness and disability is funny. Unfortunately, this was a show a lot of us watched as children. I get that it was a different time but it still amazes me the things people saw as humorous in the past.
  • Sherlock. Great show, however, it throws around the term psychopath very loosely while romanticising it. It also encourages self-diagnosis.

Examples of healthy mental health portrayal:

Some movies and shows I have watched demonstrate mental health incredibly well. The best part is that a lot of them are children’s movies and we do love some positive representations that help children deal with their emotions!

  • Moana. I always saw Tafiti as a representation of a broken heart. Someone took away a part of her and left her there to fester – becoming enraged. It’s a really powerful metaphor because through the help of Moana, she could finally forgive.
  • Frozen. Another really powerful film. Both movies demonstrate anxiety and depression, as well as the fear of losing and letting others in because of these issues.
  • Inside out. As this movie takes place in the mind, it’s really easy to see how it can be about mental health. This is especially true when sadness keeps screwing with her surroundings and effecting the child. It can also emphasise how depression and anxiety can be chemical.
  • The Haunting of Hill House. This show takes horror and gives it meaning. It does an incredible job of demonstrating distorted reality. Most of the characters are plagued in one way or another and some by their own ghosts. I definitely recommend watching this before Halloween on Saturday!
  • Anne with an E. This show is amazing and it shows how societal pressures can effect your mental health. It can be quite heartbreaking at times but the writing is amazing.
  • The Good Place. This show actually shows the process of a person becoming good and it does this in a light hearted way. I think it definitely relates to mental health because we all tend to see ourselves as a bad person at times and it’s a reminder how everyone can be good when surrounded by great people.

How do we combat this?

It’s very important to remember that if there’s demand then the media will continue to produce such TV and film. Openly discussing and analysing films do help. And I understand, we want light hearted films sometimes, ones we can enjoy. That is true however, there’s definitely a difference between funny or light hearted and invalidating or downplaying. It’s much like with other issues, as long as jokes are made about it in a such a way that invalidate’s an individuals’ pain or trauma, then no progress in understanding and normalising the concept will be made. In saying that, joking about ones mental health or having characters that do that is fine. We seek laughter where there is pain that’s just part of being human. It’s very much we should laugh with the person and not at them because we can all relate to a certain extent.

Thanks for reading and I hope it was interesting! Mental health is an important topic and I hope one day it can be discussed more openly.

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Opinion · Review

Communication of Mental Health in Social Media

Recently, I watched a video about why Elsa from Frozen is a terrible character. I was incredibly frustrated by the video for the points they were making because to me, they couldn’t see the finite details. As someone who has experienced trauma and depression, I thought it was a horrible message to give to an audience. In this post I want to discuss the portrayal of mental health and people’s reaction to it. I’ve found that society is aware of mental health, yet there is still a disconnect, so let’s explore.

Firstly, I’d like to start with the opinion of the narrator in which Elsa was described as bland and lacking personality. A comparison was then made to other Disney princesses that are quite energetic, loud and proud, however comparing Elsa to their personalities is similar to contrasting a cat to a dog. They’re both quite different. People are allowed to dislike someone’s character, but saying they’re terrible based on the personality of another is highly toxic. Drawing comparisons is quite harmful in society and what adds to this lethality is the fact that Elsa has undergone trauma and suffers from anxiety and depression. People who suffer from anxiety and depression can at times shut down, it isn’t a bland personality, it’s a mental health issue. While Elsa is a fictional character, the likes and comments on this video were quite upsetting because people agreed with these points of the argument. The audience of a youtuber is quite vast and when you have thousands of people condemning a character who clearly has mental instability, what message does this send others?

Frozen has always been a target for hate because it’s a popular movie, I personally love it because it sends an important message. While a person has every right to dislike it for their own reasons, it’s inappropriate to spread hate for a character for their traits that can be explained by mental health or trauma and ride it off as poor writing. My biggest fear is the cascade effect this can have. Society loves to hate on things and cancel them. Frozen was incredibly popular so of course people are going to get sick of it. However, people who are influential have the potential to feed that hate and in the process ride off mental health of as being bitchy or a horrible person. People behave the way they do for a reason and if society truely wishes to support mental health, it starts with not creating hate for the small things like a persons character. I want to discuss some aspect of Elsa’s personality so we can really grasp what severity of these kind of comments.

Shutting Anna Out

In the film Elsa avoids Anna because she fears her powers. She harmed her once before and she’s afraid she will again. In the video, the narrator stated ‘why didn’t she tell Anna once the parents died?’. And then goes on to say ‘hey Anna I have magic ice powers I can’t control and that’s why I stayed away from you….why couldn’t she just say that?’. This is an extremely ignorant and damaging thing to say. Trauma exists. Victims of trauma have to try very hard to overcome aspects of it. People cannot get over it as a whole and it takes a lot of time and energy. When Anna states “I can’t live like this anymore” and Elsa responds “then leave”. The narrator says ‘no rational person would say this’. Elsa clearly looks distressed in this scene and it’s very difficult to let people in as well as it’s very easy to shut them out. Calling it irrational is incredibly hurtful and can make someone think with anxiety or trauma believe that their fears are invalid. The narrator then goes on to state people with anxiety and depression can often act irrational and shows sympathy. While compassion is important and key to understanding people with mental health, why downplay it previously as irrationality? Singling a group out can be detrimental to that group as well as children.

The Movie is Not Teaching Kids to Shut People Out

Elsa needed space to reflect on her thoughts. She created a safe space to do this in the form of an Ice Castle. Progress isn’t linear and the song Let it go was only a representation of one aspect of it. If the movie was showing kids to shut people out there would not have been any resolution. The narrator states ‘why couldn’t she have let love in before’ the resolution rather than avoid others. Once again, mental health is a process and it takes a lot of energy that people don’t have to do this. At the end of the day, isolation isn’t key, but it is a step in battling trauma, depression and anxiety through reflection. Everyone needs to take a step back and think, that’s how life works.

Elsa Needs Anna

The narrator stated the movie didn’t show that Elsa needed Anna. I think it definitely demonstrated overcoming the fear of loving her sister. The only connection Elsa made to love was accidentally hurting her sister while they were playing as kids. For her letting love in mean’t hurting the ones she loved. The act of hurting Anna was another step in overcoming this as it allowed her to see she can hurt Anna at any time and that it doesn’t come with letting love in. Once again, trauma is at play and the entire journey was about Elsa overcoming that fear due to her mental health and showing Anna love. Elsa needed Anna to help her through that.

At the end of the day, it’s definitely up to you to like a character. However, downplaying mental health creates a message in society. While the narrator could identify some aspect of mental health, it still felt offensive. Being irrational is scary to people with mental health problems and commenting on it like that can be damaging. It pushes negative views on mental health onto an audience and can be triggering. Each of these opinions lead onto each other and demonstrated ignorance when it comes to understanding a person, as a result trauma felt like something someone can just get over. We still have a long way to go in order to understand mental health and communicate it. I hope in the near future people will learn to stop criticising others in such a way.

Thanks for reading! Please be wary on the internet, some places are definitely safe zones but some can be quite triggering. I also wasn’t sure whether I should link the video or not, while I don’t agree with an opinion I would rather not create a negative space elsewhere.

Review · Uncategorized

The Inner Struggle Between Good and Evil – Harry Potter Book Review

Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince is the 6th book in the series and it’s significant in that it paves the way for the final battle between Harry and Voldemort. While most people have seen the movies and understand the story, I have found the books offer more insight into the emotions Harry felt. Throughout the book Harry’s emotions are incredibly deep and it anyone can relate to them. Also please note, many people now consider the Harry Potter series authorless or written by Daniel Radcliffe. I am one of those people as I believe an author that can inspire imagination in children should be able to have enough imagination to at least grasp that gender is spectrum and a social construct.

Much like the previous book (The Order of the Pheonix), Dumbledore is adamant on teaching Harry the reasons behind a persons character. In the Order of the Pheonix, he explained the reasons why Kreacher betrayed Sirius and allowed Harry to interpret both sides of the story. In the Half Blood Prince, the lessons on character were almost entirely on Voldermort as Dumbledore believed he needed to understand his past in order to defeat him. While this was a part of the reason, there was another important factor in teaching Harry about Voldemorts past, so he could draw parallels with his own. Both Harry and Tom Riddle grew up lonely and orphaned, one became humbled and the other turned to pure evil. At one point in the book, Dumbledore questions whether Voldemort was born evil or whether he became evil. When comparing Harry and Voldemort, they both grew up in similar circumstances, so what was the definitive part that made Harry choose good?

When analysing Harry’s childhood, he grew up abused and lied to. He was told his parents died in a car crash, though he still had family and there was some kind of connection to who he was. In contrast to Tom Riddle, he grew up with no connection to anyone, all he knew is that he could do these special things. One of the ideas Dumbledore explained, was that because Riddle was surrounded by Muggles, he assumed he was special and because of this, he was above them. This idea was further developed because Riddle had no idea who his parents were and so he created a fantasy that they were powerful. When comparing Harry and Riddle, it can be quite easy to understand what set them both on their individual paths. Dumbledore wanted Harry to draw these comparisons because in doing so, his own character could develop.

In the Half Blood Prince, Harry was around the same age that Riddle started to kill. Riddle started to become interested in his family because he had this unique ability to talk to snakes and thus he must be the heir of Slytherin. That idea came crashing down when he discovered his family lived in horrific conditions and were living in squalor. Yet, the biggest factor that contributed to what he became, was that his mother loved a Muggle – a group he thought he was above. Learning that he wasn’t special, he sought to erase his past through murdering his Muggle side of the family. Dumbledore believed it was important for Harry to understand this because the journey ahead would involve the discovery of secrets, lies and objects of true power. Glory would be within his reach and he would have to reject it. Throughout the book, Harry is shown to be very susceptible to the effects of gaining prestige. The potion book owned by the Half Blood Prince was an analogy for this. Harry almost gave into the praise he recieved and through trust in the book he severely injured Draco. Through having this insight, Harry could see the consequences of striving for someone else’s greatness, much in the same sense Voldemort strives for the Slytherin familys greatness. Through understanding the consequences striving for glory, Harry could have a chance of overcoming his obstacles, as the ones to come would be the hardest he ever faced.

Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince is a fantastic book and while it is quite dark in comparison to the others, it teaches people to understand and learn from others, amongst other things. Life can be hard and having ones hopes and dreams crushed can have a profound effect on an individual, however taking a path that doesn’t give into those insecurities through seeking greatness is better in the end. This book had a profound effect on me and I felt it deserved an analysis. Thanks for reading!

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    Review

    TV Shows with a Deeper Meaning

    TV shows are a great way to pass time, while they’re a great source of entertainment, there are always hidden meanings behind these stories. I am a huge fan of shows that allow me to reflect on the way society is, so I wanted to list a few of my favourites and explain the messages in them.

    Black Mirror

    While this one is obvious for its comments on the way technology influences society as well as the innate behaviour of it, I must discuss it. Black mirror is one of my favourite shows, it’s incredibly easy to see how technology can influence society in the future, yet it is still able to draw parallels with the present day. One example of this is the episode The White Bear which can show how society follow individuals accused of crimes and how in the end we can put our humanity aside, stooping to their level for their punishment.

    Another example of how well this show comments on society is Nosedive. It demonstrates how people can get so caught up in social media that it becomes a hierarchy. Those with more followers or more likes are richer, more influential and powerful. It also demonstrates how attemping to reach that level will not make people happy, which is what a lot of people search for in social media.

    Attack on Titan

    This show is a japanese anime, despite this it still does a fantastic job at commenting on society. To quickly summarise, this show is about giants called titans that eat people and inorder to survive humanity builds a huge wall to prevent them from getting eaten. The wall itself it very symbolic in the functioning of society.

    There are layers to the wall and these layers can correspond to the social class of the person living within this area, with the richer people having the most walls between them and the titans. So far, we can visualise how this wall demonstrates the social system in society. When disaster strikes and the titans penetrate the wall, its the pooer class who is the first to be effected. This is also seen in our everyday lives, one example is global warming, people living in poverty are the ones getting most effected right now, with higher classes being unaware of the effects. The wall is important to understanding class, yet there is much more to social class within the show.

    Tokyo Ghoul

    Tokyo Ghoul is another japanese anime that about a boy name Kaneki who becomes a ghoul and needs human flesh to survive. He tries to restrain from giving into this survival instinct but eventually succumbs to it. One theme that in particularly interesting is the idea that the ghouls are only doing what they need to survive and that happens to be eating human flesh. Some ghouls like to obtain their food by a more ethical means, yet no matter what, the humans hate and hunt them. In relation to society, it demonstrates how humanity can be unwilling to find alternatives and would rather discriminate and alienate, pushing people to do what they need to in order to survive. While there are many others themes, I don’t want to spoil it for anyone.

    The X Files

    While the X Files is a sci fi show and quite bizarre at times, it often comments on themes relating to social groups. Mass hysteria is one example in which people will go crazy due to fear and panic. Another interesting point is how people tend to group together to fit their needs and interests, even if it leads to extreme behaviour. This show does an incredible job on showing human psychology and how it works at a societal level. It also has an overall scary or isolated feel at times which adds to these themes. Despite having quite serious episodes, they always throw in a comedic one and its great.

    These four shows are some of my personal favourites, they do an amazing job at showing the human condition. Of course there are many more out there and these are just a few of them. I’d love to hear any shows that you’d recommend. Thanks for reading!

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