It was 2:45 in the morning and I was surfing through the explore page on my Instagram. Among the various mind-numbing memes and cooking videos suggestions, I saw a post which didn’t sit right with me. It was a long rant about how people ‘ self-diagnose’ and ‘romanticise’ mental illnesses. While I believe the person had good intentions and possibly wanted to facilitate a discussion about mental health, she achieved the opposite. Her comments section was full of people bashing others and spreading negativity. Nevertheless, I was interested in the point she brought up, and so I read a few articles with similar sentiments. Their points boiled down to two issues:
While they seem like valid points, I feel these sentiments are hiding a darker movement of shaming within the mental health debate. In this article, I will try my best to refute these points.
I feel that self- diagnosis the first step in order to get professional help. Unless someone realizes there is something wrong with them, it is impossible for them to receive help. I also believe that self-diagnosis and talking about mental health in an online space really help de-stigmatise mental health issues. It shrugs away the shame that is associated with certain ailments and helps individuals seek the help they need. Thus, certain discussions and the trend of self-diagnosis, instead of being detrimental to those who suffer, can be helpful to them.
I understand that it is important to seek professional help when treating your mental disorder as misdiagnosis may make it worse. But we must realize that not everyone can go seek professional help. Fixing appointments can be a challenge and insurance does not cover mental health. Sometimes talking about it on social media helps. People also find communities online and their shared experiences help them find solace. While medication and periodic clinical check-ups might be more effective in certain circumstances, I think it’s important to understand that this is not possible for everyone and the internet can be a powerful substitute.
To finish off, I would like to state that I certainly do not support online services and ‘quizzes’ which take advantage of certain individuals by asking for a fee for diagnoses. But I feel that when it comes to our mental health, we are now disenfranchised in the face of prescriptions, white office chambers and pills wrapped in foil. The argument that I am trying to establish is that we should not demonize people who feel that it is more beneficial for them to rant online. It is our duty to make spaces more inclusive and open for everyone, especially for discussion as jaded as those surrounding mental health.