Why Don’t We Take Mental Health Seriously? [OPINION]
With the Target O.C.D. shirt controversy still making the rounds online after Christmas, it begs the question: Why don't we take mental health seriously?
To sum up the controversy, Reign Murphy posted a picture to Twitter over a year ago, calling out Target for their shirt that poked fun at Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, which Murphy has:
Murphy's tweet quickly went viral, with a mix of support and people bashing her for being stereotypical "precious snowflake" millennial. The story blew up further when YouTube personality and wounded vet Derek Weida responded to Murphy with his own tweet,
Murphy remains an icon for many who bash the millennial generation. But this isn't a millennial issue, its just a perfect example of how our society doesn't take mental health seriously.
Studies have shown that many people who have mental problems ranging from schizophrenia, to depression, to alcoholism go untreated because they are worried they'll be viewed as weak or inferior or that it will harm their image among friends, family, and even in the professional world. Those who suffer from these issues aren't encouraged to open up and get help, and when they do speak out about the way they're viewed, as Murphy did, they're slammed for it. Heck, just partially defending Murphy's opinion on various Facebook pages led to people cussing me out, insulting me, and making accusations of my own mental state and even my sexuality.
Unfortunately, O.C.D. is just a condition that's not taboo to make fun of. For ten years it has been a key comedic component of the character Sheldon on 'The Big Bang Theory', only recently being explained as a result of not knocking as a child and walking in on his father cheating on his mother. Its easy to make fun of because you can't look at someone and immediately know they have O.C.D., unlike something like Down Syndrome, which is definitely taboo to make fun of. Think Weida would be quick to criticize a girl with Down Syndrome and call her a "p*ssy" if she was complaining about a shirt that has someone with Down Syndrome wearing a Santa hat and the words "I'm down with Christmas"?
Another problem those with mental health issues encounter is a lack of understanding from others. People who don't have such issues or intimately know people with them are quick to discount the effects these issues have, even denying their very existence. Many who openly ridicule and oppose mental heath efforts claim that its a conspiracy by pharmaceutical companies to promote needless medications. Others deny it because the idea that someone who has a condition may act contrary to their own control is against their deeply held beliefs of things like Free Will, for example. There's also a great number who view the diagnosing of conditions like ADHD as giving people an excuse for their behavior. "When I was a kid, it was called 'acting up'. Today, its called 'ADHD'!" Yes, and when you were a kid it was called "demonic possession", but today we know it to be "Bipolar disorder". And to put a cherry on this unfortunate sundae, there's still a great many people who believe you can beat a mental condition out of someone.
The stigma of mental health is a serious one, and unfortunately doesn't seem to be going away any time soon. Murphy had a valid complaint about a shirt that was making fun of a condition she struggles with. Though the shirt is funny to some, it doesn't change the fact that it was made in bad taste, is directly referencing a mental condition that millions struggle with, and would be quickly taken down had it been making fun of a more socially taboo subject. And as for Weida and his "Oh snap!" shirt, its a bit of a stretch to say that shirt is directly referencing people who've lost their leg. We've lost a pioneer in mental health awareness in Carrie Fisher, and thankfully other celebrities are coming forward with their own battles, like Demi Lovato and Linda Hamilton being bipolar, Ryan Reynolds dealing with severe anxiety, and Kristen Bell's battle with depression, just to name a few. But the true strides won't be made until people feel supported and safe in their own society to admit to their problems and ask for help.