A couple of days ago, as I was scrolling down my Instagram feed, I noticed one particular meme in which a girl goes up to her family and says she is "going into depression". Her family, however, instead of taking up the issue seriously, replies to her in the most casual way I have ever witnessed.
"No, you can't go. Stay home and study," is what the girl's father replied.
"Okay, but come home before 8 pm," her mother replied.
"Take blessings from the elders before leaving," said her grandparents.
"Wait for me, I a also coming along," replied her best friend.
This wasn't the lone meme to have trivialised depression or other mental health issues. As I searched further, I found dozens of other such Instagram memes.
I understand that memes have become an integral part of internet culture, often serving as a source of amusement and relatability. However, memes centred around depression and mental health issues should not be taken lightly.
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To be honest, why should one even poke fun regarding depression? A person who has been through depression or is fighting it knows the pain and the challenges.
Such Instagram memes are not funny but perpetuate harmful stereotypes, trivialise genuine struggles, and contribute to a toxic online environment.
Trivialising Mental Health Struggles
Depression and mental health issues are serious conditions affecting millions worldwide. These conditions can cause immense suffering, impacting an individual's life, relationships, and well-being.
When memes make fun of these struggles, they undermine the gravity of mental health challenges and fail to acknowledge the emotional turmoil people face. This trivialisation can lead to a lack of empathy and understanding, perpetuating mental health stigma.
Reinforcing Harmful Stereotypes
The Instagram memes on depression often perpetuate harmful stereotypes about individuals with mental health issues. They may depict individuals with depression as lazy, attention-seeking, or weak, adding to the stigma and shame that sufferers already endure. Such memes encourage an unsympathetic outlook, and these could possibly discourage individuals from seeking help or opening up about their struggles.
Triggering Vulnerable Individuals
Memes that shows mental health issues on a trivial note can be extremely triggering for individuals already battling depression or other mental health conditions.
These posts may evoke painful memories, exacerbate feelings of isolation, or prompt harmful behaviours.
In an environment where mental health awareness and support are essential, these memes can hinder progress and act as barriers to healing.
Normalising Unhealthy Coping Mechanisms
Many such Instagram memes on depression portray unhealthy coping mechanisms as humorous and acceptable responses to distress. Encouraging behaviours like binge eating, substance abuse, or self-harm is inappropriate and dangerous. Such content normalises harmful actions and undermines efforts to promote healthier coping strategies and self-care practises.
Encouraging Copycat Behaviour
While it is crucial to recognise the importance of humour as a coping mechanism, memes that revolve around depression can inadvertently encourage copycat behaviour. Vulnerable individuals might see these memes as a way to seek attention or relate to others, which can exacerbate their conditions and lead to dangerous consequences.
Instagram memes on depression and mental health issues might appear to be a way of coping with personal struggles or expressing feelings. Still, their consequences can be far-reaching and harmful.
As a society, we must prioritise the well-being of our online communities and protect vulnerable individuals from further harm.
Responsible content creation and consumption are essential for promoting mental health awareness and creating a supportive online environment.
Banning such memes on Instagram is necessary to foster empathy, understanding, and compassion for those navigating the complexities of mental health issues.
Together, we can build a safer digital space that nurtures mental well-being and facilitates open discussions about mental health without resorting to harmful humour.
Mahesh 'Karan' Prasad is an engineer by education and an aspiring musician by passion, who also has a knack of writing on music and movies. Having written around a 50 songs, Mahesh has composed and recorded around 10 songs. He wishes to create meaningful and soulful music.