Typing “depression” into the search bar of Google Images brings up thousands of results.
Those results pull up staged and striking images of beautiful women and men casted in black and white, heads in their hands or eyes cast out toward distant horizons. In others, they’re silhouetted by beautiful sunsets that paint the sky in hues of purple and gray.
These pictures are beautiful.
Depression is not.
This is the latest in a disturbing trend of the romanticization of mental illness, following on the heels of “thinspiration.” This infamous movement consists of photos and quotes on various social media that promote a dangerous lifestyle of starvation to achieve weight loss.
Tying the complexity of illnesses such as depression or anorexia to embellished quotes and photos is a dangerous mix. Connotations get mixed up and jumbled. The line between positive and negative becomes blurred, leaving the viewer of these images with a confusing and misunderstood comprehension of the issue.
According to the Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance, 1 in 8 adolescents will experience depression, and 1 in 33 children will, too. If the average high school classroom has about 30 students, statistically, two or three of those students will suffer from depression.
Mental illness has always served as the metaphorical pink elephant in the room. It’s hardly discussed in elementary or high schools or even spoken about in homes, even though 1 in 4 people will be affected by it at some point in their lives, according to the World Health Organization. If an adolescent begins to experience symptoms, and they have no support system at home or school, they will turn somewhere else.
Somewhere like the Internet.
Children learn a lot from the Internet. On average, according to a research study conducted by the Kaiser Family Foundation, 8- to 18-year-olds spend a little more than seven hours every day using some form of entertainment media.
They’ll be exposed to the photos and to the quotes and the cycles of romanticization and miscomprehension will continue unless there is a change in how we choose to handle illnesses like depression.