Pretty much everything has a fine line, and when it comes to the topic of mental health, the line is about as fine as it can get.
One of my very first blogs was about my experience with depression and how this led to me being prescribed anti-depressants. I’ve been open about my ongoing journey and I’m all for challenging the stigma around mental health and medication.
This week my Instagram feed has been inundated with stories and images of familiar little white tablets as part of the #postyourpill campaign instigated by Dr Alex George. On the surface, a simple picture challenging the concept of medication stigma seemed like a powerful and positive thing, however the more and more images I saw, I couldn’t shake this niggling feeling: “was this glamourising anti-depressants?”
My fear was that instead of standing for something, this hashtag could just become another trend ‘influencers’ felt the need to jump on. And this is where the line gets thinner and thinner.
Whilst I absolutely feel this honest and open post by Dr Alex was meant from only the best place, other posts might not be. And whilst his post, and those of others, might encourage people who are struggling to seek the help and support they need, my worry is that others within the social media community might just see it as the next viral stepping stone.
Being prescribed anti-depressants does not fall into the same category as the latest pair of New Balance trainers or that must-have winter coat. It’s not cool or a fad, it’s very, very real.
We’re all very aware of just how much people are influenced to buy the trainers or that coat, but it seems to have been forgotten here. With a younger generation so heavily influenced by social media, glamourising mental health and medication – making it almost desirable – is a very dangerous thing. Suffering from a panic attack is not ‘cute’. Crying in the doctors’ chair believing you’re better off dead, is not ‘tragically beautiful’. Needing medication to balance out your flawed chemistry and help get you through each day is not ‘fun’, especially when the side effects kick in.
So, how do we destigmatise mental health and medication without crossing that line? I don’t claim to have the answer. I know the conversation needs to continue, and it needs to continue in a responsible way, with people realising the power their posts hold, not only to do great things, but to also do damage. Crossing that line threatens to undo all the hard work of the last few years in removing that ‘embarrassment’ factor in speaking out. The risk is that poor mental health could end up being portrayed as trivial, a personality trait or a trend.
So, whilst I won’t be posting my pill, I will continue to be open and honest with my experience, and hopefully allow others to have a space where they feel comfortable to talk about their struggles. Trust me, there is nothing glamourous about suffering with a mental health illness.
If you are struggling, remember, you are not alone:
Mind – 0300 123 3393
Samaritans – 116 123