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  • Writer's pictureStacey Ulry

The New Stigma: How Gen Z Has Over-Embraced Mental Illness

Stigma around mental health is everywhere: it’s on the bus, radio, TV, and, of course, the internet.

With the growing nature of social media and online anonymity paired with an availability of information unlike any other point in history, it feels difficult to dissect what exactly is contributing to the overall general “stigma.

In terms of mental health, its stigma can be traced far back into history. Cultures all around the world deemed mental illnesses unimportant, a taboo to talk about and a simple curse otherwise.

History continues to show how psychology is an ever-evolving concept with skeptics crowding around every new illness, some disregarding their reality.

Yes, times have changed with the emergence of a new generation open to conversations and encouragement to talk about mental illnesses, but there has also been the introduction to new age stigmas.

As the number of mental health advocates rises, there comes a whole new “over-normalization” of mental illness.

Bizarre as it sounds, mental disorder has been glamorized and romanticized more in the past 20 years than we’ve seen at any other point in recent history.

This trend is harmful, and it is important to consider how exactly to stop this wave and whether or not we may be contributing to it.

Often, movies, music, and television portray the mentally ill as villains, using their illness to propel their “bad intentions.”

Villainization of mental illnesses has put a damper on mental health in general, hurting those who struggle with their mental illness, and discouraging others from seeking help.

Even the news media makes the mistake of hyper-focusing on mental illness in a negative way.

On occasion, they make it seem like whatever the topic of the news source was, is an association with all those with the condition.

Controversial shows such as 13 Reasons Why featured graphic scenes and depictions of mental illness, spurring debate of whether or not its depiction of mental health helped alleviate or perpetuate existing stigmas.

Having a mental illness isn’t cute or quirky.

This new phenomenon of integrating a mental health diagnosis so deeply into one’s personality (or online persona)- it presents mental illness as a defining characteristic for many.

In reality, a person with a mental illness is not defined by their struggles, and using a mental health condition for attention is problematic for not just the individual, but others who face the same conditions.

In a sad, and usually unintended, way, this only trivializes what mental illnesses are and hides the actual pain they cause.

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