YouTube seems to have exploded within the last 5 years. I visited my local Sainsbury’s, finding shelves full of books all written by YouTubers. It’s great that teens today have another form of media to watch and enjoy. Especially as many vloggers have been tackling the topic of mental health. But has anyone addressed the negative outcome that talking about this topic could bring about?
For years, mental health has been brushed under the carpet. Many people feel ashamed, thought that they wouldn’t be believed or they would face judgement. Which is often the case. This is where vloggers have been helping. Talking about mental health to help lessen the stigma around it and to spread the word. It says to the public that you’re not alone and encourages people who might be suffering to ask for help. However, this is where the damage is being done. Because words like anxiety, depression, OCD, and bipolar disorder are circulating around social media, the fear of using them is gone. On one hand, it’s great. It means that people can talk freely about their mental health without feeling vulnerable. On the other hand, it also allows people to use these words to describe themselves when they don’t have a mental health disorder.
I experienced this just last night when one of my friends said he gets so OCD about washing his car. He doesn’t have OCD. He simply got a new car and wants to keep it clean. Using mental health disorders to explain something that is totally normal invalidates the internal experiences of a person with a mental health problem. It can cause you to question yourself and in turn often leads people not to seek help.
This impacted me very deeply when I first experienced a panic attack. Because they had been talked about so much, and the British vlogger Zoella (Zoe Sugg) had spoken about her struggles with panic attacks, I didn’t go to the doctors. I thought that it was mostly normal, that it was expected for a 13-year-old. Almost like a rite of passage into my teenage years. I looked at what Zoella shared on the internet, and to me her life seemed perfect, that despite the anxiety she was okay. And in my naïve teenage brain, that made me think that I would be fine, that I didn’t need help because she didn’t need help. I couldn’t comprehend at that age that she was only showing the parts of her life that she wanted. That she could edit her vlogs to show herself in the best light.
I didn’t actually go to therapy until I was 16, and I only really started to stick at it when I turned 18. Now that I’ve been dealing with it for nearly 6 years, I still question whether it’s really happening or if I’m just overreacting.
With a rising amount of views and subscribers, vloggers have become celebrities overnight. And with their audience mainly consisting of young teenagers, the problem is idolization. Lots of the viewers see vloggers as ‘perfect’, and want to be exactly like them in every way. This can also extend to their mental disorder. I’ve seen countless people on the internet say that they wished they had anxiety so they could be like their favorite vlogger. It’s seems to me that the audience doesn’t comprehend the impact having a mental health disorder can have on your life. It’s almost as if vloggers have made being mentally ill a trend.
This isn’t the fault of the vloggers, or anyone who speaks up about mental health. It is an unfortunate consequence of broaching the topic. And the way to solve this is to educate people on the severity of suffering with a mental health disorder. Also, it is important for the vloggers to illustrate to their audiences how debilitating it can be, and encourage anyone suffering to seek help. Let’s hope mental health will be seen as the serious illness it really is.
Do you think vlogging about this sensitive topic has brought about a negative outcome? How would you like to see mental health talked about? Leave a comment below!
Edited by Viveca Shearin