top of page

Is Mental Health Support Performative?

On the surface, it appears to be a positive that we are talking more about mental health, but psychologists, psychiatrists, teachers, parents, and individuals who have dealt with mental health difficulties in some capacity all agree that there is something wrong with the that way we are now talking about mental health. A lot of people are very performative about mental health awareness.

Many managers frequently interpret poor mental health as laziness or consider mental health as an excuse used by employees to avoid job tasks.

As there is still a lack of understanding about how important mental health is, many companies conceal their ignorance towards mental health with performative mental health awareness in order to capitalise on the fact that it is a trending topic of conversation and to cover their backs. Being supported by the firm for which you work is crucial for trust and effectiveness as an employee or member of an organisation. Open conversations are not as common as they could be, and sadly, many people are sceptical of their manager's phoney positive intent. The unfortunate thing of all of this is that the discourse around mental health is all about safeguarding the company's money rather than increasing the quality of life for employees within the organisation.

Why are people performative about mental health support?

Individuals are performative about mental health support because mental illness and mental health disorders continue to be stigmatised. Stigmas are frequently the result of a lack of knowledge or fear caused by misinformation and misunderstanding. The stigma stems from a misunderstanding about the nature of mental health disorders, since many people believe that if a someone is managing with everyday routines, obligations and functioning normally, they are in a stable mental state. Although failure to function adequately and to complete daily tasks is a common symptom of mental disorders such as depression, depression can exist just as much in those individuals who are coping with their daily activities and this should not just be dismissed as stable mental health.

Another reason people may be performative in their support for mental health may not necessarily be because they don't care, but rather that they are unsure how to console or express their support to that person. Mental health is fundamentally different from physical health. Apart from the fact that mental health is unseen and physical health is visible, mental health is more difficult to comprehend because mental disorders are born in the brain, which is undoubtedly the most complex and least known organ in the human body. Nonetheless, our brains, like any other organ, suffer injury and recovery. For those around people who are in a vulnerable mental state, their seemingly performative support can be due to a genuine lack of understanding or qualification to help.

The fight against the mental health crisis

One of the most significant missed opportunities in the fight against the mental health crisis, in my opinion, is a lack of education, support, guidance, and training for not only workplaces, but also the friends and families of people suffering from mental health disorders, and this should extend beyond education about anxiety and depression because there are over 200 classified forms of mental disorders. There is still a long way to go in terms of getting everyone on board with the right guidance and support when it comes to people's mental health, so it's critical to emphasise to those suffering from mental health illnesses that they should always seek professional care.

Although some people suffering from mental disorders may have peer support, it's vital to realise that these individuals haven't been qualified to assist you, and what they think may be helping can oftentimes be making things worse, through no fault of their own. Fear of saying or doing the wrong thing causes some people to avoid constructive dialogues that could benefit those suffering from mental illness. So, certainly, they may end up being performative to the point where they say whatever they think the person wants to hear rather than saying what the person needs to hear.


bottom of page