Let me ‘normalise’ something for you. Mental Health TikTok is triggering, spreads misinformation, and dilutes the legitimacy of diagnoses and symptoms. At first, it was incredible, to see a such platform being used to discuss mental illness and mental health. There were people talking about things I experienced on a daily basis. It was refreshing and I didn’t feel alone in my troubles. But as more and more people became exposed to the ‘world of mental illness’ if you will, the more and more it became a trend. It became a trend to talk about your ‘anxiety’, your ‘depression’ – people were praised for being so honest and so open and so vulnerable about these feelings when talking about how people were ‘depressed’ and ‘anxious’. It was validating a group of people who have not received a diagnosis, or even been tested or considered for testing, yet these people these diagnoses as if they were adjectives and just words. Some people comment on TikToks with ‘oooh the PTSD this just gave me’ when looking at lipgloss with hair in it, or a video of a girl turning down a guy. All of a sudden, so many of these illnesses were ‘normalised’, but not in the correct way. It became an umbrella term – everyone is mentally ill, especially the 14-year-old girls.
I, for one, have had a certified professional diagnose me with multiple disorders, but they all stem under the umbrella of my CPTSD (Complex Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder); I experience depression, anxiety, borderline personality tendencies, and trauma responses daily. My life is not glamorous – it isn’t trendy and it isn’t quirky and cute. I suffer. I know there are so many people out there who suffer in the same way that I do, that have experienced similar things, but they’re being overshadowed and ignored in comparison to these videos that are in people’s faces and desensitising them to the seriousness of mental illness. And I’m not saying that people don’t suffer, because I know they do, but when they approach the matter with very little respect or courtesy for what psychiatric issues are, it’s hard to defend them.
Everyone else feels anxious now – but my trauma responses release cortisol in my brain, which in turn creates stress and anxiety. I will have anxiety attacks if a situation is too much for me. I will have flashbacks if someone says a trigger word. I change my life in order to accommodate my mental illness and make sure that I don’t do anything that may negatively impact my day because of a trigger. I empathise with the people who get anxious a few times a week, it’s not fun, and it can be debilitating.
*insert fun, Gen-Z noise here to avoid tension*
I also have to take into consideration the role of the pandemic on mental health and mental illness. According to WHO, there was a 25% increase in depression and anxiety worldwide. People are suffering now more than ever, but they may not be seen or heard over the overwhelming wave of 14-year-old girls who are posting TikToks about how depressed they are. A common statistic for young people aged 13-19 is that 1 in 4 of them may experience depression. Experiencing depression and having depression are separate matters. Experiencing depression may mean that someone is currently feeling depressive symptoms such as fatigue, low moods, sleeplessness/too much sleep, not showing an interest in something they were once interested in… The HSE even warns parents on the ‘Depression in chilren and teenagers’ page that “the longer it goes on, the more likely it is to disrupt your child’s life and turn into a long-term problem.” To me, this sentence highlights the fleeting nature of teenage depression. It’s an experience, they don’t necessarily have it. If someone feels like they have it, seek out resources and mental health resources. Don’t oversaturate TikTok with half-assed dances to a sad, sped up song that shows people they’re depressed.
That’s not saying that the increase in diagnoses is a bad thing – because it’s a good thing. I want people to get diagnosed; it vastly improves day to day life. People are getting help now more than ever, receiving support that was unavailable to them without a diagnosis. And statistics are more accurate to reality with each proper diagnosis. Most of all, the more the statistics grow, the more it shows that there is a larger community of mentally ill people than most realised. Resources grow, research furthers, and the entirety of the mental health community benefit. So to me, why do people not use the new resources, and just post on the internet instead? I understand it’s an outlet, but my god. Some things you do need to keep to yourself – I find that people trauma dump on TikTok and people always flood in with support, but at the same time, I can barely handle my own trauma, why would I want to take on someone else’s?
The information that is being spread on TikTok is not necessarily accurate as well. While some videos can be enlightening and help you understand a bit about a specific mental illness, small TikToks don’t actually educate you and separate the differences between having anxiety, being anxious, and stress, or having symptoms of a mental illness and actually having a mental illness. Some of these larger creators don’t differentiate between symptoms between different disorders, leading many to believe they have a disorder, or more than one disorder when in reality, most mental disorders are intertwined and share similar symptoms.
The misinformation is actually setting back the progress that could be made if mental illness wasn’t a trend, and more correct information could be spread.
I hate that Mental Health TikTok has become such a thing. People post unrealistic videos of ‘self-care’ and ‘how I treat my mental illness’ with usually excessive amounts of products and gadgets that are monetarily out of reach for the average person. I hate that I compare my productivity and my ability to care for myself based on how other people, in different stages of their life, may take care of their mental illness. It’s a toxic cycle of questioning if I’m taking care of myself correctly, when in fact, I’m one of the only people who know how to take care of myself. I hate that my mental illness has become trendy and used as a noun to describe someone’s discomfort with a situation.
I want people to get help. And I want them to use resources available to them, not ask people online to spare their own mental health at their expense.