Lovable Lucy

The stigma surrounding conversations of mental health continues decreasing and spaces to talk about mental health are becoming more and more accessible. So, why is it that people, specifically children and young adults, are not getting the mental health support they actually need? 

While it is important for every person to take care of their mental health, regardless of its severity, specifically tailored support is essential to avoid diluting our understanding of mental illness.

Oxford psychologist Lucy Foulkes identifies the influx of mental health conversations as part of the problem. As the conversations expand to school environments, workplaces, and even social media, Foulkes explains that it poses the risk for milder issues to be conflated with mental illness. She says,“milder problems are now confounded with mental disorders, and young people are diagnosing themselves with problems they don’t really have.”

Foulkes worries the natural fluctuations of human emotions are being interpreted as warning signs of something more serious. This raises concern for our ability as humans to process and experience our emotions in a healthy way without being fearful.

Much of these conversations have taken place on social media platforms, namely TikTok, where users have seen a rise in “self-diagnosing” of mental illness. In the context of social media, the term “self-diagnosing” often refers to the process of people identifying with certain mental traits and/or behaviors another user exemplifies on social media and ultimately assigning that person’s diagnoses to themself.

This can lead to serious mental illnesses being boiled down to a series of generalized symptoms, which detracts from individuals struggling with those conditions.

Inaccurate representation of mental illness comes back to affect those struggling most deeply. In a time where opening up about mental health is so emphasized, we face the challenge of making inclusive spaces make all people feel seen, regardless of their level of struggle with mental health.

In a highly polarized society, in person and on social media, it can sometimes be difficult to view the issue of mental health and mental health care as existing on a spectrum. However, shifting away from binary conditioning of thinking is essential for recognizing that mental health deserves our careful attention. When we take our time to examine each situation, we take steps in affirming the diversity of experiences people have and cultivating true inclusivity.