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The Media: A Blessing or a Curse?

How the media has led to the idolisation and glamorisation of mental illness

CW: This article contains and discusses serious topics regarding mental illness which could be distressing to some readers.

Our mental health is made up of how we feel and think. Everyone's mental health differs and so do their struggles, there is never going to be one solution for everybody.

The media is no stranger to distorting the truth behind serious issues regarding mental health and it's been shown throughout recent years that instead of bringing awareness to mental health, it has instead glamorised being mentally ill and made cries for help harder to see. 'Sad Online' culture has become increasingly 'trendy' which is leading to false self-diagnoses and inadvertent trivialisation of serious illnesses/disorders.

The over-usage of slang terms in the media:

As we all know, the media is a fiend for creating new slang terms. However, the over usage of slang terms and phrases in regards to mental illness has made it harder for people to communicate their feelings surrounding their mental health.

Terms such as 'This is giving me major OCD' when something isn't neat or saying 'I'm going to kill myself' at minor inconveniences has vitally devalued the experiences of those who are suffering- their cries for help look like jokes. Phrases/slang such as 'KMS' (kill myself) have become so widely used across social media, whether it's in response to friends or used in TikTok videos, that when googled, it is referred to as a sarcastic or joke like comment- instead of a serious issue.

Furthermore, we often hear people use terms such as 'crazy', 'nutcase', 'psycho' when describing someone with mental health conditions. Not only does this perpetuate harmful stereotypes and continue discrimination against those with mental health conditions, but it also creates the perception that those people are dangerous and scary- which is far from the truth. This causes an issue of serious mental health issues becoming trivialised and people do not take them seriously.

How media has romanticised mental illness:

Social media:

Social media platforms such as TikTok and Instagram are full of 'sad' and 'depressing' audios. These audios are taken and used to make 'aesthetic' videos that glamorise the idea of mental health or are used to make jokes regarding mental illnesses to be 'relatable'.

Some examples include:

Whilst social media is glamorising mental illness, it is also a great platform to get information and help- but this helpful information has been lost among everything else. The media creates a vast amount of information to be spread, the good and the bad, this can be dangerous as more people are wrongly diagnosing themselves with mental health conditions as the media has simplified them.


There has been many TV shows released that discuss and/or are based in story lines including mental illness such as Euphoria, 13 Reasons Why and Skins

Euphoria was a widely popular show that shows the story of Rue who struggles with substance abuse and bipolar disorder. Whilst the series does show the difficult parts of mental illness, they depict it in a euphoric way by shooting it with aesthetic cinematography. This is heavily problematic as anyone can access this series, meaning younger audiences will view these serious conditions as gratifying and exciting.

Lastly, 13 Reasons Why was a series showing a teen girl who commits suicide and after her death, she becomes popular. This makes viewers feel as though committing suicide is the best way to become popular and be heard. Within the series, Hannah Baker reported a sexual assault and it wasn't recognised, not until she committed suicide was it acknowledged. This can put negative ideas into viewers heads on how to become seen and heard.

"According to the Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, the debut of the series led to a 28.9% spike in suicide rates in children 10-17."

Skins has a heavy portrayal of drug use and mental illness. Effy's story line glamorises mental illness as something that will make you more interesting and attractive to men as they want to 'fix you'. This leads to teens making themselves like Effy as the series proves through the story line that men will want to fix and help you if u have a mental health condition. Another character, Cassie has a serious eating disorder- the series fed into the misrepresentation of eating disorders that suggests only affect pretty, white females.


Musicians, specifically those in the alternative genre, tend to romanticise the idea of mental illness in their music instead of embracing it. Artists like Lana Del Ray, Billie Eilish and Amy Winehouse talk about the 'beauties' of mental illness and paint suicide out to be poetic. Not only is this problematic, but it also creates a generation of emotionally distant youth who believe beauty comes from mental instability and sadness. Depression, anxiety and suicidal thoughts have been glorified through song lyrics and negative head spaces have become 'ideal'.


If you or someone you know are suffering, please reach out.

  • National Suicide Prevention Helpline UK. Offers a supportive listening service to anyone with thoughts of suicide. You can call the National Suicide Prevention Helpline UK on 0800 689 5652 (6pm–3:30am every day).

  • NHS Mental Health Therapy Services. If you live in England and are aged 18 or over, you can access NHS talking therapies services for anxiety and depression.

  • Campaign Against Living Miserably (CALM). You can call the CALM on 0800 58 58 58 (5pm–midnight every day) if you are struggling and need to talk. Or if you prefer not to speak on the phone, you could try the CALM web-chat service.

  • Shout. If you would prefer not to talk but want some mental health support, you could text SHOUT to 85258. Shout offers a confidential 24/7 text service providing support if you are in crisis and need immediate help.


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