My father had post-traumatic stress disorder, the Vietnam War will do that to you. My grandparents had it too; because Nazi internment camps weren’t known for their hospitality. I don’t have PTSD, I do have certain mental health issues that require treatment, but certainly never reaching the level of hiding under the bed because the sound of thunder reminded you of air raids or experiencing extreme panic attacks every time you visit a hospital because your first major experience with doctors involved being given a barcode tattoo to remind you, you weren’t a person.
Because of things like this and my personal direct experience with a variety of mental health issues, that the commandeering of mental health by political movements is not only disturbing, but incredibly demeaning to people in the real world experiencing mental health issues on a daily basis. When someone on Twitter tells homeless military veterans to “check their privilege” because you can also get PTSD from people saying “you suck” on the internet, you might just have you raise your eyebrow in an overtly comedic fashion ala Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson.
This phenomenon is what many like to call The Oppression Olympics; basically people living in western countries who no longer have any real societal struggles have taken to making shit up and in turn making it harder than it already was for people with legitimate mental illness. See the problem faced by those of us with actual mental illnesses is that too often people are likely to dismiss them as imaginary problems. It was a common sight not that long ago, for people to write off the depressed as being “lazy”, people on the high functioning spectrum of autism were often thought of as “just a bit weird”, as a society we’ve come pretty far in getting past those roadblocks and today mental health is being addressed in much more inclusive and positive manner. It still has a number of issues that need to be ironed out, in particular moves by Socio-Conservative politicians to limit and/or alter public health programs designed to combat mental illness (See: Safe Schools, Medicare, etc.).
Why then, you might ask, are so-called “progressives” (they’re the furthest thing from progressive) undermining all the work done to improve how society treats those with mental health issues? Ironically, the answer is privilege. In 2015, a group of Missouri University students staged a protest, the sight of a bunch of 20-year-olds, many of whom had parents earning over $300,000 a year, screaming “we have nothing to lose but our chains” sounds like something you’d hear from The Onion. Except it wasn’t, these people were seriously claiming that rich university students were the same thing as slaves. Read that again, and another time, okay now if you need to throw up go do that and come back to me, I’ll wait.
Pictured: “Slavery”, according to spoiled teenagers.
This movement on the supposedly progressive side of politics now functions in the mental health spectrum too; this subculture encourages the self-diagnosis of disorders. I mean genuinely ridiculous self-diagnosis, we’re talking kids who hop online and say “eating cheese makes me triggered”, we’re talking about people who actively try to censor public speakers at educational facilities because “their opinions might be dangerous to me and cause a PTSD moment”. I’m sorry to be the one to tell you this, kids, but if a nutritionist says it might be an idea for you to change your diet because you’re approaching morbidity, it’s not “hate speech” or “body shaming”, its medical advice. I’m not kidding when I say this, these people shouldn’t be real but they are.
I can have a good time pointing out the sheer ridiculousness of what these people say, lots of media figures already do (Sargon of Akkad, Armored Skeptic, Shoe0nHead, Christina Hoff Sommers, etc.). Here’s what people aren’t saying though; since the breakout of this pseudo political movement there’s been a decline in willingness of young people to seek help with actual mental illness. If you’re a teenager suffering from gender dysphoria, and like most teenagers you spend time on the internet, how do you react when people on Tumblr are genuinely advocating that people can identify as a jar of mayonnaise? Put yourself in that person’s shoes for a second, is seeing these sorts of things going to encourage you to seek help? Or, more likely, are you going to be so embarrassed that people might think you’re one of these fringe internet types, that you avoid confronting your issues. You know what happens then? Suicide.
Let me reiterate that; suicide is what happens. Youth suicide has gone up in direct correlation with the move by young adults to popularise mental health issues as a subculture. Psychologists and psychiatrists are reporting record highs of mentally ill people being undiagnosed until after a major incident, the suicide rate has increased by 3% and when surveyed in 2015, 76% of Australian high school students said they were uncomfortable seeking help when they experienced depression or anxiety. In 2005 it was only 40% of students who felt that way. Let’s reiterate that; ten years ago teenagers were more willing to seek out help from counsellors, teachers and their own parents than they are today. You can try and blame old, fogey, conservatives but the truth is that’s not what the research shows.
Fossilised conservative parents were a lot more conservative a decade ago than they are today, what changed was the move by some on the extreme socio-left political spectrum to turn mental health into a giant joke. What kid wants to admit to anyone that they have feelings of anxiety or self-harm, when someone else is posting Facebook updates about how they have self-diagnosed themselves with 40 different disorders and they’re currently experiencing shell shock because dad didn’t let them order pizza for dinner? The answer is none. It was hard enough for people with mental health problems to seek help when the typical response was “you just need to be less sad all the time”, how much more difficult has it been made by these idiots pretending they have serious issues because it makes them popular on the internet? Who in their right mind would ever want to publicly acknowledge their mental health issues when someone with dyed blue armpit hair who insists that they sexually identify as a fennec fox is the loudest voice in the mental health conversation? I certainly wouldn’t.
I think it’s time to stop the glorification of mental illness, many of us struggle with these issues daily, those of us that don’t, likely know someone who does. If your idea of mental illness is that it exists as some sort of accessory, that you are so devoid of personality traits that you have to create a number of issues for you to plaster all over yourself like a child who got into a pack of stickers then you need to realise and acknowledge that you’ve done more to undo the work of mental health professionals everywhere in five years, than the entire socio-conservative, bible belt Christian political movement accomplished in thirty years.
Taylor Yermolaev graduated Curtin University in 2012 with a BSc Psychology (Honours).