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De-stigmatising Mental Health?

Discussions of public perceptions of mental health and using the internet as a positive forum against misrepresentation.
by

Vicki Mortimer

on 26 November 2012

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Transcript of De-stigmatising Mental Health?

The De-stigmatisation of Mental Health. Inspirations. Culture: something that is studied and simultaneously contributed to. Communication. Inspiration thus came from discussions in class; posted a review of 'A Beautiful Mind.' Imagery. Drawbacks of 'Tumblr.' Drawbacks of Tumblr. Wider Impact of Stigma. An exploration of my experiences using blogging to "write back" against the stigmatisation of mental health. Reservations. Conclusions. Blog: perfect forum to tackle stigma; breaking taboos through discussion rather than silence. Inspired by ideas of 'normalcy,' and a desire to "shake off this concept of normalcy as an ingrained, natural human state. Chose 'Tumblr' because of the 'tagging,' 'following,' and 'reblogging' functions, which combined blogging with social networking. My blogging was seated in a desire to communicate, discuss and explore ideas of mental health. Here, I was able to communicate, through the "reblogging" function, with another mental health blogger. http://mentalillnessmedia.tumblr.com/post/34520580426/normal-a-beautiful-mind-ron-howard-2001 Although this was what I had hoped for from the blog, I had not expected to breed such communication. This changed my perception of this concept of 'blogging,' from a forum where I could air my own views to a natural and evolving platform perfect for communication. A large majority of bloggers chose to communicate their views with images. Understandable, easily digestable images present postive images to a wide audience. However, all uses of imagery have not been positive. The popularity of images meant that ideas reinforcing widely held, but misinformed, perceptions of mental health were seen by many without analysis. There were 46,238 reblogs of this image, with few questioning the implication of the idea. This brought into question my initial perception of 'Tumblr' as an informed forum for such discussions, and highlighted the dangers of using such a popular site. Imagery and the forum of 'Tumblr,' being used in a destructive manner. The use of imagery to fight against the shaming of self-harm is a positive tool. However, graphic images of self-harm seem to almost glamorize such
injuries. These images can 'trigger' other bloggers, pushing them into relapse or can bring up painful memories. One blogger questioned this same 'glamorization,' taking into account the comfort images like this could bring to sufferers. Problematic as 'safe-spaces' become triggering and bloggers conform to stigma rather than fighting against it. A drawback of using such a form of social networking is its
popularity. Naive to assume that all those engaging with such topics would be educated in them. Clashing, inflamatory views are common on the internet and can have far-reaching and destructive effects. http://problematicnormality.tumblr.com/post/34103967437/sick-bubblegum-when-people-threaten-to-commit-suicide Harked back to the ideas of stigma I had been attempting to fight against, surprised me in this forum; brought new fears of ignorant stigma in what I believed to be a positive space. It further brought fears about my own involvement in such a space, particularly with reference to my reservations. A platform to discuss wider ideas perpetuating stigma in society. Studies on mental health, positive and negative representations in the media and film etc., were constantly discussed and highlighted by other bloggers. Brought issues of mental health to the centre of modern society, rather than placing it on the periphery - way of battling stigma. However, such representations can also breed stigma. Discussion, whilst sometimes problematic, is imperative to move towards understanding. Despite positive engagement and interaction, which I had not expected, I still had reservations. Kept quiet about concerns, particularly involving images of self-harm. I often felt intrusive and calculated, as if my posts left me as a by-stander, a David Attenborough-esque observer. However, I realised that my contributions had, in fact, had some impact. My reservations were alleviated when I pushed past this idea of "them and us," realising that mental HEALTH affects us all. I realised that stigma is bred from this idea of 'them and us,' of 'attention seeking' and 'genuine,' and from our fears of becoming 'one of them.' I had reservations about the kind of impact I could have; I didn't want to write a series of mini-essays. This experience has been a journey. I thought writing a blog would be easy and I was surprised when, at times, I struggled. Inspiration did not come from seminars and readings, as I had expected, but from day-to-day life. Blogging has destroyed my 'them and us' perceptions. Mental health as something that affects everyone, not something that 'places us at loggerheads with those suffering differently to us.' I began assessing literature, film, culture and ended assessing myself and those around me. Blogging is a useful tool but, as with the internet in general, comes with many dangers. Our minds are organs, just like any other part of our body, they are not something we can always control at will. It is through cultural debate, discussion and questioning that we are able to begin to understand what others are suffering. This blog is something I will definitely continue. Initial reservations and surprise to find many people discussing these issues. Moreover, blogging brought cultural ideas about mental health into the everyday; associating such stigmas with real people I was communicating with.
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