Social media is often scorned for being a vapid cesspool of political commentary, selfies, and pictures of everyone — but you — living the good life. No one has a bad day on Facebook, seemingly.
Amber Smith, of Rugby, United Kingdom, aimed to shatter that perception with a sternly worded Facebook post and selfie taken right after she suffered an anxiety attack.
God knows why I’m doing this, but people need some home truths.
Top picture: What I showcase to the world via social media. Dressed up, make up done, filters galore. The ‘normal’ side to me.
Bottom picture: Taken tonight shortly after suffering from a panic attack because of my anxiety. Also the ‘normal’ side to me that most people don’t see.
I’m so sick of the fact that it’s 2016 and there is still so much stigma around mental health. It disgusts me that so many people are so uneducated and judgmental over the topic.
They say that 1 in 3 people will suffer with a mental illness at some point in their life. 1 in 3! Do you know how many people that equates to worldwide?! And yet I’ve been battling with anxiety and depression for years and years and there’s still people that make comments like ‘you’ll get over it’, ‘you don’t need tablets, just be happier’, ‘you’re too young to suffer with that’
FUCK YOU. Fuck all of you small-minded people that think that because I physically look ‘fine’ that I’m not battling a monster inside my head every single day.
Smith closed by writing, “Please don’t be afraid to share this, there needs to be more awareness. The more awareness there is, the less people who will suffer in silence” — a message that helped the post amass more than 5,300 shares in a few days, and flood Smith’s inbox with hundreds of direct messages.
Smith isn’t the first to take on mental health stigma via social media. Blogger Erin Jones also shared her experience with her mental health struggles in photos, specifically about why she restarted her anti-anxiety and antidepressant medication after having briefly stopped taking them.
“I have tried living this life without prescription help,” Jones wrote in a Facebook post. “It seems to have me on top of the world one minute and rocking in the corner the next. There is no consistency. I’m done with that. Anxiety and antidepressant medication to the rescue. Sometimes, folks, we just need help.”
Roughly one in five Americans — about 43 million — have a diagnosable mental disorder, according to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH). Additionally, 20 percent of teenagers have had a debilitating mental disorder. In Smith’s native UK, nearly a quarter of English people have experienced a mental health episode in their life, according to the Health and Social Care Information Centre.
The social stigma around mental health issues extends online, but social media could be help counter that. Just as people show their support of terrorism victims and social issues such as marriage equality, internet users are increasingly pledging support for those who suffer from mental health disorders, like by using the hashtag #IWillListen to signal that it’s a safe space to talk about those struggles.
Social network Facebook has taken a further stand on mental health issues by implementing tools to prevent suicide, including a feature that connects users who may be suicidal with counselors.
Facebook also has an app that creates a support network for users who might be at risk for suicide, allowing friends to flag troubling posts and directly connect users suicide hotlines, relaxation videos, or other supportive friends. Facebook will also intervene, calling a potentially suicidal user, and in some cases, the local police for more imminent threats.
Integrating support for mental health issues in social platforms can make all the difference in how they are understood in broader society. As Smith put it in her post:
“To anyone who is going through the same, please do not suffer in silence. There is so much support around — Don’t be scared to ask for help…We’re all human regardless of age, race, religion, wealth, job. So build one another up instead of breaking each other down.”