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Mental Illness is not a Social Media Bandwagon The dangers of glorifying sadness as depression

There have been recent trends of glorifying sadness on social media that may have started as a way for people to relate with others on a deeper level aside from the usual superficial validation of selfies by friends and/or strangers. Unfortunately, the memes, hashtags, and posts that seem to romanticize the idea of someone being depressed for simply experiencing typical alterations of feelings and emotions have gotten out of hand. Inconsequential and short-term situations eliciting temporary negative feelings are being used to seek attention from others despite not being the cause of actual, long-term, or valid clinical depression as is claimed. 

However, this is the ‘FML’ generation, so we tend to have a flair for the dramatic. We can’t simply have a bad experience, brush it off, and move on. We have to tell all of our friends, wallow in some level of self-pity, and of course, share it on all of our social network accounts so people can validate just how ‘bad’ we have it — even for things that are not that bad.

…This is the ‘FML’ generation

Most recently, the hashtag #igetdepressedwhen went viral for all the wrong reasons. If you browsed the associated posts, you would’ve noticed that the majority of them ended up trivializing the clinical disorder, reducing it to a temporary feeling or mood. This turned into a mockery of something that is actually a global mental health concern by citing melodramatic scenarios about ice cream melting and leaving a puddle of condensation in one’s lap or not having time to stop for coffee before work in the morning, for example. Obviously, these situations alone do not actually cause a person to become depressed as the clinical definition explicitly describes.

Those who struggle through the effects of the disease day-in and day-out were left to watch this conversation make a mockery of their conditions. This could have been used as an opportunity to break the stigma, allow the facts about the illness to come out through this platform, and raise awareness to the masses. Thankfully, though, depression is not a disorder that impacts an individual’s ability to stand up and defend him or herself. People came out in droves to shut down the insensitive and inappropriate use of the hashtag. To see the hashtag stopped in its tracks was heartening because it flipped the conversation on its head and forced people to realize there is a big difference between having depression and just being sad about an incident. It also called people out on the fact that their use of the hashtag perpetuates the belief that people with depression are just being over-dramatic and not choosing to overcome their plight.

…There is a big difference between having depression and just being sad about an incident.

To sum up a few key things about depression that need to be understood in order to maintain the authenticity and validity of the term for those it actually applies to, here are some facts and clarifications:

  • Depression is not a mood, it’s a long-term mental illness that affects over 16 million Americans.
  • There are different forms of depression, some that people are born with and others that can develop under varying life circumstances.
  • Depression is not the same as situational sadness. It does not just appear and then go away after a short amount of time.
  • Depression is not a choice, it’s a chemical imbalance in the brain with symptoms that differ based on each individual.
  • Symptoms of depression can impact an individual’s thoughts, feelings, sleep patterns, appetite, and ability to handle daily activities, to name a few.
  • Depression can be treated with medication that regulates chemical imbalances in the brain much like an individual would take to regulate blood pressure or insulin for diabetes.
  • There is no “one size fits all” treatment for depression, so it may take some time for someone to figure out what works best for them-this is not something the individual has control over or should be chastised for.
  • People with depression are often intelligent, high-functioning members of society you could come across at work, school, or in social circles without ever knowing that they’re enduring this battle.
  • Depression does not stop people from being able to live fulfilled lives, but it does require concerted efforts over the long-term, so being part of a strong, positive support system can make all the difference.

Even if you weren’t involved in the hashtag situation when it was at its height, this was a life lesson for all of us. Situational sadness is not depression. You don’t just get depressed over one trivial matter like not being able to find the remote in time to watch your favorite show. And to glorify or romanticize a genuine mental illness that impacts 6% of the adult population in America for comedic purposes or to appear relatable and authentic to your social circles does a disservice to society as a whole. It diminishes the efforts and credibility of those working to shatter stigmas on mental health around the world. My hope is that people will rethink their casual and even callous everyday use of the words ‘depressed’ and ‘depression’ and be more thoughtful and considerate of the negative impact it can have on others before jumping on another ill-thought out social media bandwagon like this in the future (#liveandlearn).


For more information and resources on depression follow the links below:
Institute of Muslim Mental Health
National Institute of Mental Health – Depression
Mayo Clinic – Depression

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