There is no doubt that the pandemic has been difficult for people around the world. Health anxiety, financial difficulties, isolation, and grieving the loss of loved ones are just some of the feelings that have been felt by many people throughout the last 6 months. While it has been nothing short of challenging; we at PA Parent and Family Alliance want to celebrate World Mental Health Day by taking a look at how the stigmas surrounding mental health are changing for the better; and how the pandemic may have played a roll in this. It is ironic that a moment in history where we need to remain socially distant is one that seems to be bringing a lot of people together (virtually).
As a mental health advocate, you know that the stigma surrounding mental health has always been there. Growing up you may remember you and the people around you kept your mental health and their mental health challenges to ourselves and it was dealt with very privately as if having a mental health challenge was something to be ashamed of. While this stigma still exists; it has been chipped away at and the pandemic has almost seemed to act as a catalyst to speed up that process. We wanted to take a look at the top 3 ways that we can see the stigma is being broken down; and how the pandemic has played a roll in them.
While we are using this article to highlight a silver lining associated with the pandemic, we do not want you, our readers, to ignore the negative feelings you may be feeling right now. Check out our article; This is a World Crisis, Not a Productivity Contest. If you are having trouble with anything from distance learning, to understanding your child's IEP/504 plan, or just need someone to talk to reach out to our (free and confidential) Family Support Partners.
1. Celebrities/people in media being open about their own mental health
It is very important for people, especially children to see themselves in the people on their TVs, on social media, and singing their favorite songs. The representation shows children that the sky is the limit for their dreams and aspirations. We wanted to highlight some of the celebrities that we have seen open up about their mental health challenges. Now when someone watches a celebrity with the same social, emotional, behavior, or mental health challenge as themselves win a championship, a Grammy, an Oscar, or top the charts they can see that they too could dream that big.
Halsey is a singer who has been very open about her experiences being bipolar. She has been in the music scene for a while but has recently gained traction and now finds herself at the top of the charts with other music powerhouses. She named her last album Manic and in this video below she sits down with a mental health professional to discuss how being bipolar has impacted her as a person and artist, as well as how she has used her platform to spread mental health awareness.
Shepard is an actor, hosts a very popular podcast called Armchair Expert, and is married to actress Kristen Bell. Shepard has been incredibly open about his substance use disorder. He talks very candidly about his experience with substances and how sobriety is something that is important to him and his family, as well as something he is very proud of. By being so open about his addiction he has become well known as an advocate for individuals who have substance use disorders. On September 21, 2020 Shepard released a podcast entitled Day 7 where he shares with his listeners about how after 16 years of sobriety he relapsed with pain killers. Shepard who has a beautiful family, an enormously successful wife, a budding podcast, and a whole lot of fame struggles with his substance use disorder and by him being so open about it he shows his listeners that they are not alone if they do too. To hear his open and frank conversation click below.
You may have first heard of Jamil when she starred in the show The Good Place. Now that she has a much larger platform than before she is using it to spread awareness for a number of things, which include mental health advocacy as a whole, and more specifically disordered eating and body dysmorphia - both of which she has a personal connection to. She started I Weigh as an Instagram account and now it is a community of people who stand for inclusion and breaking down that stigma associated with mental health. Because of Jamil's platform, she has been able to get some of the most prominent people in pop culture, as well as mental health professionals to sit down for her podcast and web series to open up about their own struggles and educate her followers about resources that are out there for them to utilize. To get a sense of the kind of things discussed by Jamil check out this tweet that features one of her segments; 'Ask Me Anything'.
2. Millennials/ Gen Z being more open about their mental health challenges on social media
When you were a child you may not have heard about the social, emotional, behavior, or mental health challenges of the people around you. As we mentioned before this is due largely to the nasty stigma that has surrounded mental health. Now it seems as though younger generations are more open about their mental health challenges, many of them sharing their experiences on social media.
While it was around before the pandemic, Tik Tok has never been bigger. It is one of the companies that boomed in the last 6 months and a lot of that is due to the fact that it has much more authentic content than a lot of other social media platforms. If you are scrolling through Tik Tok you are much more likely to see a real and authentic glimpse into the lives of people instead of just them smiling and looking perfect. Everything from content from mothers who are overwhelmed and talk about needing a break, to a licensed therapist sharing their insights and expertise with their followers. Below you can see two examples of how mental health professionals are getting on these platforms that are used heavily by young people to spread awareness of mental health challenges, and what they may look like for people. By doing this they are making people feel seen, and also bringing awareness to mental health as a whole.
Have you seen our Tik Tok? We are doing our part to continue to spread mental health awareness on the app. Check out one of our Tik Toks below and click here to see our page.
3. A shift away from curated lives on social media
Before the pandemic perfectly manicured lawns, children's lunches that look like they deserve a Michelin Star and flawless homes probably flooded your social media channels. It was all about making the outside world think that you are the perfect parent, spouse, pet owner, and person in general. Any flaw that was present was edited out or covered up by a filter. While some people started to push back against the fake curated life before the pandemic; because of the pandemic even more people are following suit. Now pictures that used to showcase an influencer's slim physique on a tropical beach now often showcase them in "normal" clothes with a caption that discusses how their mental health has taken a toll during the pandemic.
Much like the appeal of Tik Tok people are craving authentic content from the people they follow. It is no longer appealing to follow people who are pretending to have perfect lives. In the craziness that has been 2020, it has become apparent that this facade that social media once created is not something anybody has time for anymore. We think this switch from curated social media accounts to ones that are real is a welcomed change because those curated accounts had a very negative impact on children and young adults. It made many social media users feel like everyone in the world had their lives together except them; that is what happens when all you view are other people's highlight reels.
It has been quite a year for our world. One full of challenges, and loss. However, it has also bred creativity, resilience, and togetherness. Mental health has never been discussed as much and as openly as it is being right now. On World Mental Health Day we are grateful for the people who are doing their part to break down the stigma surrounding mental health and encourage you to be a part of it. Don't hide what you are feeling or going through. You never know how impactful your story could be to people.